Puneet Varma (Editor)

Forced disappearance

Updated on
Share on FacebookTweet on TwitterShare on LinkedInShare on Reddit
Forced disappearance

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.


According to the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court, which came into force on 1 July 2002, when committed as part of a widespread or systematic attack directed at any civilian population, a "forced disappearance" qualifies as a crime against humanity and, thus, is not subject to a statute of limitations. On 20 December 2006, the United Nations General Assembly adopted the International Convention for the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearance.

Often, forced disappearance implies murder. The victim in such a case is abducted, illegally detained and often tortured during interrogation, and killed, with the body hidden. Typically, a murder will be surreptitious, with the corpse disposed of to escape discovery so that the person apparently vanishes. The party committing the murder has plausible deniability, as nobody can provide evidence of the victim's death.

"Disappearing" political rivals is also a way for regimes to engender feelings of complicity in populations. The difficulty of publicly fighting a government that murders in secret can result in widespread pretense that everything is normal, as it did in the Dirty War in Argentina.

Human rights law

In international human rights law, disappearances at the hands of the state have been codified as "enforced" or "forced disappearances" since the Vienna Declaration and Programme of Action. For example, the Rome Statute establishing the International Criminal Court defines enforced disappearance as a crime against humanity, and the practice is specifically addressed by the OAS's Inter-American Convention on Forced Disappearance of Persons. There is also some authority indicating that enforced disappearances occurring during armed conflict, such as the Third Reich's Night and Fog program, may constitute war crimes.

In February 1980 the United Nations established the Working Group on Enforced or Involuntary Disappearances, "the first United Nations human rights thematic mechanism to be established with a universal mandate." Its main task "is to assist families in determining the fate or whereabouts of their family members who are reportedly disappeared." In August 2014, the Working Group reported 43,250 unresolved cases of disappearances in 88 different States.

The International Convention for the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearance, adopted by the UN General Assembly on 20 December 2006, also states that the widespread or systematic practice of enforced disappearances constitutes a crime against humanity. It gives victims' families the right to seek reparations, and to demand the truth about the disappearance of their loved ones. The Convention 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 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. The Convention further sets forth the obligation of international co-operation, both in the suppression of the practice, and in dealing with humanitarian aspects related to the crime. The Convention establishes a Committee on Enforced Disappearances, which will be charged with important and innovative functions of monitoring and protection at international level. Currently, an international campaign of the International Coalition against Enforced Disappearances is working towards universal ratification of the Convention.

Disappearances work on two levels: not only do they silence opponents and critics who have disappeared, but they also create uncertainty and fear in the wider community, silencing others who would oppose and criticise. Disappearances entail the violation of many fundamental human rights. For the disappeared person, these include the right to liberty, the right to personal security and humane treatment (including freedom from torture), the right to a fair trial, to legal counsel and to equal protection under the law, and the right of presumption of innocence among others. Their families, who often spend the rest of their lives searching for information on the disappeared, are also victims.


NGOs such as Amnesty International or Human Rights Watch record in their annual report the number of known cases of forced disappearance.


During the Algerian Civil War, which began in 1992 as Islamist guerrillas attacked the military government which had annulled an Islamist electoral victory, thousands of people were forcibly disappeared. Disappearances continued up to the late 1990s, but thereafter dropped off sharply with the decline in violence in 1997. Some of the disappeared were kidnapped or killed by the guerrillas, but others are presumed to have been taken by state security services. This latter group has become the most controversial. Their exact numbers remain disputed, but the government has acknowledged a figure of just over 6,000 disappeared, now presumed dead. Opposition sources claim the real number is closer to 17,000. (The war claimed a total toll of 150–200,000 deaths).

In 2005 a controversial amnesty law was approved in a referendum. It granted financial compensation to families of the "disappeared", but also effectively ended the police investigations into the crimes.


During Argentina's Dirty War and Operation Condor, many alleged political dissidents were abducted or illegally detained and kept in clandestine detention centers such as ESMA, where they were questioned, tortured, and sometimes killed. Other detention camps include those of Garaje Azopardo and Orletti, to name just a few. These places of torture, located in Buenos Aires, Argentina, contributed over 6,000 desaparecidos, or disappeared persons, to the overall count in the Dirty War. The victims would be shipped to places like a garage or basement and tortured day after day. The disappeared ones were people who were considered to be a political or ideological threat to the military junta. The Argentine military justified torture to obtain intelligence and saw the disappearances as a way to curb political dissidence. Whenever the female captives were pregnant, their children were stolen away right after giving birth, while they themselves remained detained. It is estimated that 500 young children and infants were given to families with close ties to the military to be raised.

Eventually, many of the captives were heavily drugged and loaded onto aircraft, from which they were thrown alive while in flight over the Atlantic Ocean in the so-called "death flights" or (vuelos de la muerte), so as to leave no trace of their death. Without any dead bodies, the government could easily deny any knowledge of their whereabouts and any accusations that they had been killed. In addition, the forced disappearances was the military junta's attempt to silence the opposition and break the determination of the guerrillas. People murdered in this way (and in others) are today referred to as "the disappeared" (los desaparecidos).

An activist group, Mothers of the Plaza de Mayo, was formed by mothers of the "disappeared" victims of the dictatorship. In addition a similar group was formed, Grandmothers of the Plaza de Mayo, with the goal of finding the children stolen by the Argentine government during the Dirty War.

The phrase was recognized by de facto President General Jorge Rafael Videla when he said in a press conference "They are neither dead nor alive, they are desaparecidos (missing)". It is thought that between 1976 and 1983 in Argentina, up to 30,000 people (8,960 named cases, according to the official report by the CONADEP) were killed or disappeared. According to a declassified cable, an estimate by the Argentine 601st Intelligence Battalion in mid-July 1978 (which started counting victims in 1975) produced a figure of 22,000 persons killed or "disappeared"—this document was first published by John Dinges in 2004.


Since 2010, under the Awami League regime, at least 298 people – most of whom are opposition leaders and activists – have been enforcedly disappeared in Bangladesh by the state security forces. According to the report of a domestic human rights organization, 82 people were enforcedly disappeared from January to September 2014. After the disappearances, at least 39 of the victims were found dead while others remained missing. On 25 June 2010, an opposition leader Chowdhury Alam was arrested by the state police and remained missing since then. His abduction was later denied by the law enforcing agencies. On 17 April 2012, another prominent leader, Ilyas Ali, of the main opposition party Bangladesh Nationalist Party was enforcedly disappeared by the unknown armed personnel. The incident got much media coverage. Before the controversial national election of 2014, at least 19 opposition men were picked up by security forces. The incidents of enforced disappearances were condemned by both domestic and international human rights organizations. Despite the demands for the govt. initiatives to probe such disappearances, investigations into such cases were absent.


Almost immediately after the military's seizure of power on 11 September 1973, the Chilean military junta banned all the leftist parties that had constituted the democratically elected president Salvador Allende's UP coalition. All other parties were placed in "indefinite recess", and were later banned outright. The regime's violence was directed not only against dissidents, but also against their families and other civilians. [See: Missing (1982)]

The Rettig Report concluded 2,279 persons who disappeared during the military dictatorship were killed for political reasons or as a result of political violence, and approximately 31,947 tortured according to the later Valech Report, while 1,312 were exiled. The latter were chased all over the world by the intelligence agencies. In Latin America, this was made under the auspices of Operation Condor, a combined operation between the intelligence agencies of various South American countries, assisted by a United States Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) communication base in Panama. Pinochet justified these operations as being necessary in order to save the country from communism.

Some political scientists have ascribed the relative bloodiness of the coup to the stability of the existing democratic system, which required extreme action to overturn. Some of the most famous cases of human rights violations occurred during the early period: in October 1973, at least 70 people were killed throughout the country by the Caravan of Death. Charles Horman, a US journalist, "disappeared", as did Víctor Olea Alegría, a member of the Socialist Party, and many others, in 1973. Mathematician Boris Weisfeiler is thought to have disappeared near Colonia Dignidad, a German colony founded by anti-Communist Paul Schäfer in Chile, which was used as a detention center by the DINA, the secret police.

Furthermore, many other important officials of Allende's government were tracked down by the Dirección de Inteligencia Nacional (DINA—the Chilean secret police) during Operation Condor. Thus, General Carlos Prats, Pinochet's predecessor and army commander under Allende, who had resigned rather than support the moves against Allende's government, was assassinated by a car bomb in Buenos Aires, Argentina, in 1974. A year later, the deaths of 119 opponents abroad was claimed as the product of infighting between Marxist factions, the DINA setting up a disinformation campaign to propagate this thesis, Operation Colombo. The campaign was legitimized and supported by the leading newspaper in Chile, El Mercurio.

Other victims of Condor included, among hundreds of less famous persons, Juan José Torres, the former President of Bolivia, assassinated in Buenos Aires on 2 June 1976; Carmelo Soria, a UN diplomat working for the CEPAL, assassinated in July 1976; and Orlando Letelier, a former Chilean ambassador to the United States and minister in Allende's cabinet, assassinated after his release from internment and exile in Washington, D.C. by a car bomb on 21 September 1976. This led to strained relations with the US and to the extradition of Michael Townley, a US citizen who worked for the DINA and had organized Letelier's assassination. Other targeted victims, who escaped assassination, included Christian-Democrat politician Bernardo Leighton, who barely escaped an assassination attempt in Rome in 1975 by the Italian neo-fascist terrorist Stefano delle Chiaie (the assassination attempt seriously injured Leighton and his wife, Anita Fresno, leaving her permanently disabled); Carlos Altamirano, the leader of the Chilean Socialist Party, targeted for murder in 1975 by Pinochet, along with Volodia Teitelboim, writer and member of the Communist Party; Pascal Allende, the nephew of Salvador Allende and president of the MIR, who escaped an assassination attempt in Costa Rica in March 1976; and US Congressman Edward Koch, who became aware in 2001 of the relationship between death threats he received and his denunciation of Operation Condor. Furthermore, according to current investigations, Eduardo Frei Montalva, the Christian Democrat President of Chile from 1964 to 1970, may have been poisoned in 1982 by a toxin produced by DINA biochemist Eugenio Berrios. Berríos himself is reputed to having been assassinated by Chilean intelligence in Uruguay, after being spirited away to said country in the early 1990s.

Protests continued, however, during the 1980s, leading to several scandals. In March 1985, the gruesome murder of three Communist Party of Chile (PCC) members led to the resignation of César Mendoza, head of the Chilean gendarmerie the Carabineros de Chile and member of the junta since its formation. During a 1986 protest against Pinochet, 21-year-old American photographer Rodrigo Rojas DeNegri and 18-year-old student Carmen Gloria Quintana were burnt alive, killing Rojas.

In August 1989, Marcelo Barrios Andres, a 21-year-old member of the Manuel Rodríguez Patriotic Front (FPMR, the armed wing of the PCC, created in 1983, which had attempted to assassinate Pinochet on 7 September 1986), was assassinated by a group of military personnel who were supposed to arrest him on orders of Valparaíso's public prosecutor. However, they simply summarily executed him; this case was included in the Rettig Report. Among the killed and disappeared during the military dictatorship were 440 MIR guerrillas.


See Kidnapping in China.


In 2009, Colombian prosecutors reported that an estimated 28,000 people have disappeared due to paramilitary and guerrilla groups during the nation's ongoing internal conflict. In 2008, the corpses of 300 victims were identified and 600 more during the following year. According to Colombian officials, it will take many years before all the bodies that have been recovered are identified.

El Salvador

According to the United Nations Working Group on Enforced and Involuntary Disappearances, enforced disappearances were systematically carried out in El Salvador both prior to (starting in 1978) and during the Salvadoran Civil War. Salvadoran non-governmental organizations estimate that more than 8,000 disappearances occurred, and in the Report of the Commission on the Truth for El Salvador, it is estimated that more than 5,500 persons may have been the victims of enforced disappearance. The Office of the Procurator for the Protection of Human Rights of El Salvador claims that

Disappearances usually took place during operations whose purpose was the detention and later the disappearance or execution of persons identified as or suspected of being government opponents, including civilians who had nothing to do with the conflict, with the apparent aim of generating terror and eliminating members of the population who might potentially become guerrillas.

Enforced disappearances of children occurred, which is thought to have been "part of a deliberate strategy within the violence institutionalized by the State during the period of conflict".

Equatorial Guinea

According to the UN Human Rights Council Mission to Equatorial Guinea, agents of the Equatorial Guinean Government have been responsible for abducting refugees from other countries in the region, and holding them in secret detention. For example, in January 2010 four men were abducted from Benin by Equatorial Guinean security forces, held in secret detention, subjected to torture, and executed in August 2010 immediately after being convicted by a military court.


During World War II, Nazi Germany set up secret police forces, including branches of the Gestapo in occupied countries, which they used to hunt down known or suspected dissidents or partisans. This tactic was given the name Nacht und Nebel (Night and Fog), to describe those who disappeared after being arrested by Nazi forces without any warning. The Nazis also applied this policy against political opponents within Germany. Most victims were killed on the spot, or sent to concentration camps, with the full expectation that they would then be killed.


Guatemala was one of the first countries where people were disappeared as a generalized practice of terror against a civilian population. Forced disappearances was widely practiced by the United States-backed military government of Guatemala during the 36-year Guatemalan Civil War. An estimated 40,000 to 50,000 individuals were disappeared by the Guatemalan military and security forces between 1954 and 1996. The tactic of disappearance first saw widespread use in Guatemala during the mid-1960s, as government repression became widespread when the military adopted harsher counterinsurgency measures. The first documented case of forced disappearance by the government in Guatemala occurred in March 1966, when thirty Guatemalan Party of Labour associates were kidnapped, tortured and killed by the security forces; their bodies were put in sacks and dumped at sea from helicopters. This was one of the first major instances of forced disappearance in Latin American history. When law students at the University of San Carlos used legal measures (such as habeas corpus petitions) to require the government to present the detainees at court, some of the students were "disappeared" in turn.

Hong Kong

On the evening of December 30, 2015, a Hong Kong citizen Lee Bo (李波), disappeared. His wife shortly received a phone call from him (with caller ID from Shenzhen across the border with mainland China) in which he explained in Mandarin (not Cantonese which they'd usually converse in) he had to assist with some investigation for a while, and he could not be home nor provide more information for a while. Lee Bo was a co-owner of the Causeway Bay Books and the Might Current publishing house that specialized in selling books concerning the political gossip and other lurid subjects of the Chinese Communist party leaders. These books were banned from China, and were popular among the numerous Chinese tourists visiting Hong Kong. Towards the end of October, 2015, four co-owners and managers of the bookstore and publisher, Gui Minhai (桂民海), Lui Bo (呂波), Cheung Jiping (張志平), and Lam Wingkei (林榮基), went missing from Thailand and mainland China, believed to be detained by law enforcement in China. Lee Bo had expressed concern of his safety in various interviews after his colleagues disappeared, and intentionally left all travel documents at home (confirmed by his wife to be the case after his disappearance). Lee Bo was a dual citizen of Hong Kong and the United Kingdom.

Lee Bo's disappearance drew wide attention, since it was widely believed he was abducted and brought into mainland China. The disappearance of all 5 men were speculated to be connected to some upcoming news releases that would embarrassed the Communist party. Hong Kong citizens, under the one-country two-system configuration, are supposedly to be protected by the Basic Law in that law enforcement from China cannot operate in the special administrative region (SAR), and most laws in China do not apply. Lee's disappearance was considered a threat to freedom of press and most importantly the many rights, freedom, and protection promised to Hong Kong citizens often denied in mainland China.


Ensaaf, a nonprofit organization working to end impunity and achieve justice for mass state crimes in India, with a focus on Punjab, released a report in January 2009, in collaboration with the Benetech Human Rights Data Analysis Group (HRDAG), claiming "verifiable quantitative" findings on mass disappearances and extrajudicial executions in the Indian state of Punjab. It claims that in conflict-afflicted states like Punjab, Indian security forces have perpetrated gross human rights violations with impunity. The report by Ensaaf and HRDAG, "Violent Deaths and Enforced Disappearances During the Counterinsurgency in Punjab, India", presents empirical findings suggesting that the intensification of counterinsurgency operations in Punjab in the 1980s to 1990s was accompanied by a shift in state violence from targeted lethal human rights violations to systematic enforced disappearances and extrajudicial executions, accompanied by mass "illegal cremations". Furthermore, there is key evidence suggesting security forces tortured, executed, and disappeared tens of thousands of people in Punjab from 1984 to 1995.

In 2011, the Jammu and Kashmir State Human Rights Commission (SHRC) recommended the identification of 2,156 people buried in unmarked graves in north Kashmir. The graves were found in dozens of villages on the Indian side of the Line of Control, the border that has divided India and Pakistan since 1972. According to a report published by the commission, many of the bodies were likely to be those of civilians who disappeared more than a decade earlier in a brutal insurgency. "There is every probability that these unidentified dead bodies buried in various unmarked graves at 38 places of North Kashmir may contain the dead bodies of enforced disappearances", the report stated.


At least tens of thousands of people disappeared under the regime of Saddam Hussein, many of them during Operation Anfal.


Following the Iran student riots in 1999, more than 70 students disappeared. In addition to an estimated 1,200–1,400 detained, the "whereabouts and condition" of five students named by Human Rights Watch remained unknown. The United Nations has also reported other disappearances. After each manifestation, from teacher unions to women's rights activists, at least some disappearances are expected. Dissident writers have been the target of disappearances, as have members of religious minorities such as the Baha'i Faith following the Iranian revolution. Examples include Muhammad Movahhed and Ali Murad Davudi.


According to National Commission of Human Rights (CNDH), between 2006 and 2011, 5,397 people have disappeared. Of these, 3,457 are men, 1,885 are women, but there is no information about the other 55 (source BBC). Usually the forced disappearances occur in groups and are on people not related to the drug war which was started by President Felipe Calderón in 2006. The main difference from the kidnappings, is that usually there is no ransom asked for the disappeared.

Morocco / Western Sahara

Several Moroccan Army personnel suspected of being implicated in the 1970s coups against the King were held in secret detention camps such as Tazmamart, where some of them died due to poor conditions or lack of medical treatment. The most famous case of forced disappearance in Morocco is that of political dissident Mehdi Ben Barka, who disappeared in obscure circumstances in France in 1965. In February 2007, Morocco signed an international convention protecting people against forced disappearance. In October 2007, Spanish judge Baltasar Garzón declared the competence of the Spanish jurisdiction in the Spanish-Sahrawi disappearances between 1976 and 1987 in Western Sahara (mostly controlled by Morocco). There have been charges brought against some Moroccan military heads, some of them currently in power as of 2010, such as the head of Morocco's armed forces, General Housni Benslimane, charged for the detention and disappearance campaign of Smara in 1976. Garzón's successor, Judge Fernando Pablo Ruz, reopened the case in November 2010.

North Korea

In North Korea, forced disappearances of nationals are characterized by detention without contact or explanation to the families of the detained. Foreign citizens, many of whom are ethnic Koreans who were living in South Korea and Japan, have been disappeared after willfully travelling to North Korea or after being abducted abroad.

Northern Ireland and Ireland

"The Disappeared" is the name given to eighteen specific individuals abducted and killed by the Provisional IRA during the Troubles.

In 1999 the IRA admitted to killing nine of the disappeared, and gave information on the location of these bodies, but only three bodies were recovered on that occasion, one of which had already been exhumed and placed in a coffin. The best-known case was that of Jean McConville, a Belfast mother of ten, widowed a few months before she disappeared, who the IRA claimed was an informer. The search for her remains was abandoned in 1999 but her body was discovered in 2003, a mile from where the IRA had indicated, by a family out on a walk.

Since then four more victims have been found, one in 2008 and three in 2010.

The Independent Commission for the Location of Victims' Remains, established in 1999, is the body responsible for locating the disappeared.


In Pakistan, forced disappearances allegedly began after the US invasion of Afghanistan in 2001. According to Amina Masood Janjua, a human right's activist and chairperson of Defence of Human Rights Pakistan; a not for profit organization working against enforced disappearance there are more than 5000 reported cases of enforced disappearance in Pakistan. There are no formal allegations or charges against the persons thus forcefully disappeared.The systematic practice of enforced disappearance in Pakistan originated in the era of Military dictator General Pervez Musharraf.


An activist, Charlie del Rosario was a professor at the Polytechnic University of the Philippines was last seen live on the night of March 13, 1971 while putting posters for the national congress of the Movement for a Democratic Philippines (MDP), inside the PCC Lepanto Compound. Allegedly, the Philippine government military unit, Task Force Lawin abducted him.

His disappearance happened before the suspension of the writ of habeas corpus and the declaration of Martial Law. Charlie, who was never seen nor heard from hence, is considered as the first victim of enforced disappearance of the Marcos regime. The Filipino term of enforced disappearances of the Philippines are known as desaparecidos meaning victims of enforced disappearances. During the Marcos regime, there were many people who went missing but was allegedly reported to be tortured, abducted and killed by policemen.


During the communist regime of Nicolae Ceaușescu, it is claimed that forced disappearances occurred. For example, during the strikes of 1977 and 1987 in Romania respectively, leading persons involved in the strikes are alleged to have been "disappeared".


Russian rights groups estimate there have been about 5,000 forced disappearances in Chechnya since 1999. Most of them are believed to be buried in several dozen mass graves.

The Russian government failed to pursue any accountability process for human rights abuses committed during the course of the conflict in Chechnya. Unable to secure justice domestically, hundreds of victims of abuse have filed applications with the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR). In March 2005 the court issued the first rulings on Chechnya, finding the Russian government guilty of violating the right to life and the prohibition of torture with respect to civilians who had died or been forcibly disappeared at the hands of Russia's federal troops.


The United Nations workgroup for Human Rights reported in 2013 that on the period between the Spanish Civil War (1936–1939) and the end of Franco's dictatorship (1939–1975), an estimated 114,226 people "disappeared" by being forcibly taken away by either official or unofficial armed groups, following which they were secretly murdered and later buried in undisclosed locations. The report also mentions the systematic kidnapping and "stealing" of children and newborns, in numbers reaching 30,960 children, which continued even after the end of the dictatorship during the 1970s and 1980s.

The disappearances include whole Republican military units, such as the 221st Mixed Brigade. The families of the deceased soldiers speculate that the bodies of the disappeared members of this unit may have ended up in unknown mass graves.

It was not until 2008 that the first attempt was made to take the issue to court, with that attempt failing and with the judge in charge of the process being himself impeached and subsequently disqualified. The UN's Working Group on Enforced or Involuntary Disappearances has openly stated that the Spanish Government is failing to its duties in these matters.

Estimate of the Desaparecidos del franquismo

Identification and systematic analysis of the bones of victims in mass graves have not yet, to date, been undertaken by any government of the current Spanish democracy (since 1977).

According to La Nueva España newspaper, the data of people buried in mass graves brought before the Audiencia Nacional court on 16 October 2008 are the following:

  • Andalusia 32,289 (Almería 373, Cádiz 1,665, Córdoba 7,091, Granada 5,048, Huelva 3,805, Jaén 3,253, Málaga 7,797, Sevilla 3,257)
  • Aragón 10,178 (Huesca 2,061, Teruel 1,338, Zaragoza 6,779)
  • Asturias 1,246 (Gijón 1,246)
  • Balearic Islands 1,777 (Mallorca 1,486, Menorca 106, Ibiza and Formentera 185)
  • Canary Islands 262 (Gran Canaria 200, Tenerife 62)
  • Cantabria 850
  • Castilla-la Mancha 7,067 (Albacete 1,026, Ciudad Real 1,694, Cuenca 377, Toledo 3,970)
  • Castilla-León 12,979 (Ávila 650, Burgos 4,800, León 1,250, Palencia 1,180, Salamanca 650 Segovia 370, Soria 287, Valladolid 2,555, Zamora 1,237)
  • Catalonia 2,400
  • Valencian Community 4,345 (Aicante 742, Castellón 1,303, Valencia 2,300)
  • Basque Country 9,459 (Álava 100, Guipúzcoa 340, Vizcaya 369, Basque Government data 8,650)
  • Extremadura 10,266
  • Galicia 4,396
  • La Rioja 2,007
  • Madrid 2,995
  • Murcia 855
  • Navarra 3,431
  • Ceuta, Melilla and North African territories 464
  • Other territories 7,000
  • Total 114,266 (the final total number was corrected and expanded in the course of the trials reaching a total of 143,353)
  • Sri Lanka

    According to a United Nations 1999 study, Sri Lanka is the country that has the second highest number of disappeared people in the world (the first being Iraq). Since 1980, 12,000 Sri Lankans have gone missing after being detained by security forces. More than 55,000 people have been killed in the past 27 years. The figures are still lower than the then-current Sri Lankan government's 2009 estimate of 17,000 people missing, which was made after it came to power with a commitment to correct the human rights issues.

    In 2003, the International Red Cross (ICRC) restarted investigations into the disappearance of 11,000 people during Sri Lanka's civil war.

    On 29 May 2009, the British newspaper The Times acquired confidential U.N. documents that record nearly 7,000 civilian deaths in the no-fire zone up to the end of April. The toll then surged, the paper quoted unidentified U.N. sources as saying, with an average of 1,000 civilians killed each day until 19 May, when the government declared victory over the Tamil Tiger rebels. That means the final death toll is more than 20,000, The Times said. "Higher", a U.N. source told the paper. "Keep going." The United Nations has previously said 7,000 civilians were killed in fighting between January and May. A top Sri Lankan official called the 20,000 figure unfounded. Gordon Weiss, a U.N. spokesman in Sri Lanka, told CNN that a large number of civilians were killed, though he did not confirm the 20,000 figure.

    US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has accused Sri Lanka of "causing untold suffering".


    In 2007, the Swiss government detained without charge an Egyptian refugee Mohamed El Ghanem. The family of El Ghanem, and El Ghanam himself claim that the detention was in retaliation for El Ghanem's filing charges against the Swiss Police for threatening him to become a spy-informant on the local Muslim community. Pending 2006, the Swiss government ran administrative and judicial procedures against El Ghanem in his absence, claiming he was mentally incompetent and dangerous, but refused him proper treatment. The Swiss government refused to tell his U.S.-based family where he was, or to admit his detention. In 2009, British journalist Robert Fisk noted that El Ghanem was "disappeared", in light of the fact that the Swiss government was refusing to acknowledge his whereabouts. In 2010, lawyers for El Ghanem presented the case to the UN Committee on Forced and Voluntary Disappearances. In 2013, the Swiss Federal Tribunal ruled that El Ghanem's detention was wrongful, and that his complaints (re: alleged spy-recruitment) had never been adequately addressed. As of November 2013, El Ghanem remained in the local Geneva prison, Champ-Dollon. His imminent release was expected.


    Cases of forced disappearance in Syria started when late Syrian president Hafez al-Assad started to face opposition from citizens in the late 1970s. While he was able to buy elite merchants of Damascus through Badr el-Deen Shallah, the general public was outraged by Assad's policies in ruling the country and the rise of corruption. From then on, any voice opposing or questioning the Syrian government was silenced by forced disappearance or threats. According to Human Rights Watch, no fewer than 17,000 people disappeared during Assad's 30-year rule.

    Bashar al-Assad took his father's policy further and considered any voice questioning anything about Syria's political, economical, social, or otherwise policies should be monitored and when needed, detained and accused of weakening national empathy. A recent case is Tal Mallohi, a 19-year-old blogger summoned for interrogation on 27 December 2009 and never went back home.

    In November 2015, Amnesty International has released a report accusing the Syrian government and its allied militants of kidnapping tens of thousands people since 2011. The international organization said that such acts represent a crime against humanity. The organization called Syrian government to allow the entry of the UN's international committee of inquiry observers in order to access information related to the detainees.

    Amnesty international has claimed that more than 65000 people, mostly civilians, have been forcibly disappeared between March 2011 and August 2015.

    The Syrian government, on the other hand, has repeatedly denied reports accused it committing crimes against humanity.

    Palestinian territories

    Four members of Hamas Armed wing were abducted in Sinai, Egypt. They were abducted by unidentified gunmen according to the Egyptian security officials. The abducted men were in a bus carrying fifty of the Palestinians from Rafah, to Cairo airport.

    Hamas confirmed that the four abducted Palestinian were heading to Cairo. The spokesman of the interior ministry Iyad al Bazom said" "We urge the Egyptian interior ministry to secure the lives of the kidnapped passengers and free them". Until the moment, no group claimed their responsibility for the kidnapping.


    On 12 March 2004, Somchai Neelapaijit, a well-known Thai Muslim activist lawyer in the kingdom's southern region, was kidnapped by Thai police and has since disappeared. Officially listed as a disappeared person, his presumed widow, Mrs. Ankhana Neelapaichit, has been seeking justice for her husband since Somchai first went missing. On 11 March 2009, Mrs. Neelapaichit was part of a special panel at the Foreign Correspondents Club of Thailand to commemorate her husband's disappearance and to keep attention focused on the case and on human rights abuses in Thailand.

    In 2013, Bangkok Post reported that "Angkhana Neelapaijit, wife of missing lawyer Somchai, said the government's policies against drug trafficking and the southern insurgency had contributed to incidents of enforced disappearance."


    Turkish human rights groups accuse the Turkish security forces of being responsible for the disappearance of more than 1,500 civilians of the Kurdish minority in the 1980s and 1990s, in attempts to root out the PKK. Every week on Saturdays since 1995, Saturday Mothers hold silent vigil / sit-in protests to demand that their lost ones be found and those responsible be brought to justice. Each year Yakay-Der, the Turkish Human Rights Association (I˙HD) and the International Committee Against Disappearances (ICAD), organise a series of events in Turkey to mark the "Week of Disappeared People".

    In April 2009, state prosecutors in Turkey ordered the excavation of several sites around Turkey believed to hold Kurdish victims of state death squads from the 1980s and 1990s, in response to calls for Turkey's security establishment to come clean about past abuses.

    United States

    According to Amnesty International ("AI"), the United States has engaged in forced disappearance of prisoners of war in the course of its War on Terror. AI lists at "least 39 detainees, all of whom are still missing, who are believed to have been held in secret sites run by the United States government overseas."

    The United States Department of Defense kept the identity of the individuals it held in Guantanamo secret, from its opening, on 11 January 2002, to 20 April 2006. An official list of the 558 individuals then held in the camp was published on 20 April 2006, in response to a court order from the United States District Judge Jed Rakoff. Another list, ostensibly of all 759 individuals who had been held in Guantanamo, was published on 20 May 2006.


    Forced disappearance Wikipedia

    Similar Topics