In Timor-Leste, family members and friends carry photographs of loved ones who disappeared or died during the Santa Cruz massacre on 12 November 1991. Credit: UN Photo/M. Perret
Enforced disappearance has frequently been used as a strategy to spread terror within the society. The feeling of insecurity generated by this practice is not limited to the close relatives of the disappeared, but also affects their communities and society as a whole.
Enforced disappearance has become a global problem and is not restricted to a specific region of the world. Once largely the product of military dictatorships, enforced disappearances can nowadays be perpetrated in complex situations of internal conflict, especially as a means of political repression of opponents. Of particular concern are:
- the ongoing harassment of human rights defenders, relatives of victims, witnesses and legal counsel dealing with cases of enforced disappearance;
- the use by States of counter-terrorist activities as an excuse for breaching their obligations;
- and the still widespread impunity for enforced disappearance.
Special attention must also be paid to specific groups of especially vulnerable people, like children and people with disabilities.
On 21 December 2010, by its resolution 65/209 the UN General Assembly expressed its deep concern, in particular, by the increase in enforced or involuntary disappearances in various regions of the world, including arrest, detention and abduction, when these are part of or amount to enforced disappearances, and by the growing number of reports concerning harassment, ill-treatment and intimidation of witnesses of disappearances or relatives of persons who have disappeared.
By the same resolution the Assembly welcomed the adoption of the International Convention for the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearance, and decided to declare 30 August the International Day of the Victims of Enforced Disappearances, to be observed beginning in 2011.