Forced disappearance

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"Forced disappearance" of someone is their secret abduction or imprisonment, typically by a political organisation or national government.

In international human rights law, a forced disappearance (or enforced disappearance) occurs when a person is secretly abducted or imprisoned by a state or political organization or by a third party with the authorization, support, or acquiescence of a state or political organization, followed by a refusal to acknowledge the person's fate and whereabouts, with the intent of placing the victim outside the protection of the law.[1]

International Convention against Forced Disappearance

International Convention for the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearance (ICCPED)
Parties and signatories to the ICAPED:
  signed and ratified
  signed but not ratified
  neither signed nor ratified
TypeUnited Nations General Assembly Resolution
Drafted29 June 2006
Signed20 December 2006
Effective23 December 2010
Condition32 ratifications

On 20 December 2006, the United Nations General Assembly adopted the International Convention for the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearance, which provides for the right not to be subjected to enforced disappearance, as well as the right for the relatives of the disappeared person to know the truth. The Convention also contains several provisions concerning prevention, investigation and sanctioning of this crime, as well as the rights of victims and their relatives, and the wrongful removal of children born during their captivity. It was signed immediately by 57 countries, and entered into effect with the 32nd ratification on 23 December 2010. By March 2014, it had 93 signatories and 42 parties.[2]

The area of the world in which the ratification rate has been the highest is South America, where under Operation Condor, tens of thousands of people were disappeared under US-backed military dictatorships. Support is also quite high in Europe, with most EC members ratifying. Notable failures to sign included US, UK, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, Russia and China.

Selected nations

For a more complete list see the wikipedia article on this topic.


Argentina was the second nation state to ratify the UN convention against forced disappearance.[2]Under the Dirty War, maybe 15-30 thousand people were 'disappeared', tortured by the military dictatorship in the 1970s.


In 2009, Robert Fisk reported that refugee and professor of law El Ghanem had been "disappeared" by the Swiss government, in light of the fact that they were refusing to acknowledge his whereabouts. Switzerland signed the UN convention in 2011, but has still not ratified it (as of March 2014).[2]

United States

At a State Department press briefing, a spokesman said that he couldn't "give you specific reasons here from the podium as to why we didn't sign on to it", but added that it did not meet "our needs and expectations". The CIA engages in forced disappearance of prisoners of war in the course of its "war on terror" as Bob Baer has noted.[3][4]