US, UN push governments to end acute problem of missing persons

The United States and the United Nations Wednesday stepped up pressure on all government to work towards ending the issue of enforced disappearances and missing persons and bring to justice those responsible for this offence.

“We urge those responsible for enforced disappearances to immediately cease this practice, disclose information about the victims to their loved ones, and either release the victims unconditionally or return the remains of those who have tragically lost their lives,” US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said in a statement released in Washington to mark International Day of the Victims of Enforced Disappearance.

In New York, UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres strongly condemned the “atrocious crime” of enforced disappearances and urged all Member States to hold those who perpetrate it accountable.

In his statement, Blinken, the top US diplomat said, “We stand in solidarity with those who have been subjected to the anguish of separation from their families and friends. We also extend our support to the family members, legal representatives, and human rights defenders who tirelessly champion the cause of the victims.”

“Regrettably,”, he added, “these advocates often encounter severe harassment and reprisals themselves.”

In a tweet on social media platform X, the United Nations chief said enforced disappearance was “a serious human rights violation that has frequently been used to spread terror…I call on countries to help put an end to this atrocious crime”.

According to the UN human rights office (OHCHR), enforced disappearance can be defined as the arrest, detention, or abduction of an individual by the State or group acting with the authorization of the State, followed by concealment of the whereabouts of the disappeared person.

It is a crime under International Human Rights Law, the UN said. Victims are frequently subjected to torture and live in perpetual fear for their lives. Their families, ignorant of the fate of their loved ones, are left wondering and waiting for news that may never come.

According to the UN, hundreds of thousands of people have vanished during conflicts or periods of repression in at least 85 countries around the world.

“For the families & friends of the disappeared, every day is a fight to know the fate & whereabouts of their loved ones. Truth & justice are essential,” said High Commissioner for Human Rights, Volker Turk, in a tweet on Wednesday.

“I call on States to guarantee protection, accountability, transparency & redress for all victims of enforced disappearances,” he added.

Enforced disappearance, once largely the product of military dictatorships, has become a global problem and is not restricted to a specific region of the world. It has been used frequently as a means of political repression.

Blinken also said that the problem enforced disappearances and missing persons was a “global concern and called for confronting the issue.

“Furthermore,” he said, “We call upon governments to halt any harassment and retaliatory actions against individuals advocating for the rights of victims of enforced disappearances.”

BY Nadeem Faisal Baiga