Imagine if you woke up one day and were unable to find your loved one because they spoke out against the government, a prominent drug lord, or simply were at the wrong place at the wrong time. What if you knew that they were detained for years on end, but their whereabouts and fate were unknown? What would you do? Enforced disappearances are still an appalling reality in many countries around the world. For example, did you know that in Mexico more than 26,000 people have been reported missing or in disappearance between 2006 and 2012? That 25,000 people have been reported missing in Colombia? That thousands of suspected opponents of the Syrian government had been arbitrarily arrested and detained since February of 2011?
Enforced disappearance is a recent concept made famous by past and recent Latin American regimes. The United Nations General Assembly adopted the International Convention for the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearances in December of 2006. It was only then that the crime of enforced disappearances was defined and expressly prohibited as “… the arrest, detention, abduction or any other form of deprivation of liberty committed by agents of the State or by persons or groups of persons acting, with the authorization, support or acquiescence of the State, followed by a refusal to acknowledge the deprivation of liberty of by concealment of the fate or whereabouts of the disappeared person, which place such a person outside the protection of the law.” Some experts consider this to be the strongest human rights treaties ever adopted by the United Nations. So, what is the big problem here? Why is it so hard to get states to ratify this Convention?
The international community seems to be silent on this particular legal issue. Why? Most likely because most countries are involved in committing such an atrocious crime. States must take full responsibility to solve all aspects of this issue. To get states to take full responsibility, victims must start speaking up and raising awareness. We must simultaneously raise awareness to stop enforced disappearances by bringing in the peace negotiators, developing political will, and involving the media. To stop the violence, we must break the silence.