Forced disappearance shall be understood as “the arrest, detention, kidnapping or any other form of deprivation of liberty that is the work of State agents or by persons or groups of persons acting with the authorization, support or acquiescence of the State, followed by the refusal to recognize said deprivation of liberty or the concealment of the fate or whereabouts of the disappeared person, removing them from the protection of the law”. From Article 2 of the International Convention for the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearance, adopted by the UN General Assembly in December 2006.

The International Day of the Victims of Forced Disappearances is commemorated every August 30 since 2011 by a UN resolution, which took the proposal of some sectors that had decided to institute that date already in 1981. Among them the Latin American Federation of Associations of Relatives of Disappeared Detainees (FEDEFAM), a non-governmental organization made up of the Associations of Relatives of Latin American and Caribbean countries in which the forced disappearance of persons had become a recurrent practice for persecution and political repression, even many years before the aforementioned 2006 Convention was sanctioned.

Today, the UN warns that “enforced disappearance is often used as a strategy to instill terror in citizens. The feeling of insecurity that this practice generates is not limited to the close relatives of the disappeared person, but affects their community and society as a whole. Enforced disappearance has become a global problem that does not only affect a specific region of the world. Enforced disappearances, which in their day were mainly the product of military dictatorships, can today be perpetrated in complex situations of internal conflict, especially as a method of political repression of opponents” and expresses special concern about “the harassment of human rights’ defenders, victims’ relatives, witnesses and lawyers who deal with cases of enforced disappearance; the use by States of the fight against terrorism as an excuse for non-compliance with their obligations; and the still generalized impunity for the practice of forced disappearance”.