The UN chief made the appeal in his message to mark the International Day in honor of the victims of this grave human rights violation, observed on Monday.
“Together we can and must end all enforced disappearances,” he said.
A global problem
Enforced disappearance refers to the arrest, detention or abduction of persons by state agents, or those acting with the authorization or support of the state, whose fate is unknown.
Once largely the product of military dictatorships, it has become a global problem, according to the UN, with hundreds of thousands of people “missing” in more than 80 countries. Impunity remains widespread.
Although strictly prohibited by international human rights law, Mr. Guterres said enforced disappearance continues to be used across the world as a a method of repression, terror and stifling dissent.
“Paradoxically, it is sometimes used under the pretext of fighting crime or terrorism.. Lawyers, witnesses, the political opposition and human rights defenders are particularly at risk, ”he added.
Families also suffer
Excluded from the protection of the law, the victims, who may include children, are deprived of all their rights and are at the mercy of their captors.
They are frequently tortured and know that it is unlikely that someone will come to their aid. Some are even killed.
“Enforced disappearance deprives families and communities of the right to know the truth about their loved ones, to accountability, to justice and to reparation” declared the Secretary General.
“The COVID-19 pandemic has added to the agony and anguish of enforced disappearance, limiting the ability to search for missing persons and investigate suspected enforced disappearances. “
The International Day for Victims of Enforced Disappearances has been commemorated on August 30 every year since 2011.
Obligation to prosecute
It was established by the United Nations General Assembly, which adopted a resolution in December 2010 expressing deep concern at the increase in incidents in various regions and the increase in reports of harassment, ill-treatment and abuse. intimidation of witnesses to disappearances or relatives of disappeared persons.
The resolution also welcomed the adoption of the International Convention for the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearance, which calls on countries to take action to hold perpetrators criminally accountable.
“The Convention for the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearance is indispensable in helping to combat this cowardly practice. But it requires the will and commitment of those with the power to do it, ”the Secretary-General said.
“States must fulfill their obligations to prevent enforced disappearances, search for victims, investigate, prosecute and punish perpetrators. “
Mr. Guterres reiterated his call for countries to ratify the Convention and to work with the United Nations Committee that monitors its implementation, as well as the Working Group on Enforced Disappearances, which helps families determine the fate of their relatives.