International Day of the Disappeared

The International Day of the Disappeared  is a day created to draw attention to the fate of individuals imprisoned at places and under poor conditions unknown to their relatives and/or legal representatives observed on August 30 . The United Nations (UN) observes the International Day of the Victims of Enforced Disappearances on August 30 each year. The impulse for the day came from the Latin American Federation of Associations for Relatives of Detained-Disappeared (Federación Latinoamericana de Asociaciones de Familiares de Detenidos-Desaparecidos, or FEDEFAM), a non-governmental organizationfounded in 1981 in Costa Rica as an association of local and regional groups actively working against secret imprisonment, forced disappearances and abduction in a number of Latin-American countries.

International Day of the Disappeared

Work on secret imprisonment is an important part of the activities for a number of international bodies and organizations in the fields of human rights activism and humanitarian aid, including for example Amnesty International (AI), the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) and the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC). The International Day of the Disappeared is an opportunity to highlight these institutions’ work, increase public awareness, and to call for donations and volunteers.

Of those agencies, the ICRC has additional privileges due to its special status as a non-governmental sovereign entity and its strict policy of neutrality. In some cases, the ICRC is the only institution granted access to specific groups of prisoners, thereby enabling a minimum level of contact and inspection of their treatment. For affected families, messages transmitted by the ICRC are often the only hint about the fate of these prisoners.

Visiting those detained in relation to conflicts and enabling them to restore and maintain contact with their families, is a very important part of the ICRC’s mandate. But the definition of the Missing or the Disappeared goes far beyond the victims of enforced disappearance. It includes all those whose families have lost contact as the result of conflicts, natural disasters or other tragedies.

These missing may be detained, stranded in foreign countries, hospitalized or dead. Through its tracing services and working with the 189 national Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies around the world, the ICRC seeks to obtain information about their fate on behalf of their families. It reminds governments and other groups of their obligations to respect the families’ right to know the fate of their loved ones. It also works with families of the missing to help them address their particular psychological, social legal and financial needs.

On August 30 each year, organizations such as the UN and Amnesty International play an active role in raising awareness that enforced disappearance is a crime and should not be used as a tool to deal with situations of conflict. Many activists openly share personal stories, via the media or public event, about victims of enforced disappearances and the impact that these disappearances have on their families and communities. To get more events view here.

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