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International standards on enforced or involuntary disappearances

Working Group on Enforced or Involuntary Disappearances

Enforced disappearance infringes on a number of rights including:

  • The right to recognition as a person before the law;
  • The right to liberty and security of the person;
  • The right not to be subjected to torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment;
  • The right to life, when the disappeared person is killed;
  • The right to an identity;
  • The right to a fair trial and to judicial guarantees;
  • The right to an effective remedy, including reparation and compensation;
  • The right to know the truth regarding the circumstances of a disappearance.

Provisions protecting against enforced disappearances are contained in a number of international legal instruments:

Enforced disappearance also infringes on a number of economic, social and cultural rights of the victims including relatives and communities affected. Enforced disappearances have impacts on a number of rights guaranteed by the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights such as:

  • The right to protection and assistance to the family;
  • The right to an adequate standard of living;
  • The right to health;
  • The right to education.

The serious economic hardships affecting victims of enforced disappearances and their relatives are most often borne by women. Women are most often at the forefront of the struggle to search for their disappeared family members. In this capacity, they may suffer intimidation, persecution and reprisals as well as gender-based discrimination and violence. When women are themselves direct victims of disappearance, they become particularly vulnerable to sexual and other forms of gender-based violence.

Children can also be victims, both directly and indirectly. The enforced disappearance of a child violates a number of provisions of the Convention on the Rights of the Child, including the right to a personal identity as does the loss of a forcibly disappeared parent.