Today is the International Day of the
Disappeared. The United Nations Working Group on Enforced or Involuntary Disappearances
commemorates the day every 30 August.
Working Group that was established by the United Nations Commission on Human
Rights in 1980 assists families in determining the fate or whereabouts of
disappeared relatives. It also endeavors to establish a channel of
communication between the families and the governments concerned, to ensure that
individual cases are investigated, with the objectives of clarifying the
whereabouts of persons who, having disappeared, are placed outside the
protection of the law.
Cape Town, South Africa, Jeremy Sarkin, the chairperson of the Working Group, told
VOA that the group has been around for over 30 years although it hasn’t really reached
significant recognition yet.
said it is important “to give some kind of commemoration for the hundreds of
thousands of people that have disappeared around the world”.
said the Working Group has achieved substantial progress. “The Working Group
has focused on more than 50 thousand cases and has had quite some success”.
added, “Really the organization is a humanitarian one, in a sense; it operates as
a conduit between family members and the government”.
explained that the Working Group doesn’t really go and find people but it acts
as a liaison between victim families and governments to ensure that
individuals who have gone missing are found.
major target is state-sanctioned or state organized or disappearances caused by
organizations with state sanctions. So we really operate within a context of
disappearances where there is a connection with the state directly,” he said.
pointed out the thousands of cases have been clarified over the last 30 years. “We
have seen cases in a whole range of countries where either the person has been
found alive, or in prison or elsewhere where governments have taken them. In other
cases a person’s body has been found and identified – and where it has been
found that the state had a role, reparations have been paid to the family
secret detentions, especially in terrorism cases, Sarkin said that is still a
problem in terms of forced disappearances. But added that “at the moment the UN
is investigating the practice of secret detentions and will make
recommendations to ensure the practice is reduced and eradicated going forward”.
Working Group on Enforced or Involuntary Disappearances is comprised of five
independent experts from all regions of the world.