Enforced Disappearance, What Is It About?

There are phenomena so painful that they hardly fit a name. Some give rise to situations that we find difficult to assume, in part because we are not able to elaborate them. Today we are talking about forced disappearance, one of those human rights violations that causes so much damage.

Imagine that the person you love the most disappears, how would you feel? Undoubtedly, it would be difficult for you to develop yourself in various areas. And what if a long time passes and you still don’t know anything about her?

Join us on this journey through enforced disappearance, we will show you what it is about, valuable coping strategies that are emerging to help assume that pain that does not stop and about who is working to alleviate and avoid the consequences of the phenomenon.

“The twilight of disappearance bathes everything with the magic of nostalgia.”

-Milan Kundera-

Enforced disappearance, what is it about?

Enforced disappearance is a concept that comes from the legal sphere. It refers to people who involuntarily stop being there. In addition, whoever exercises it is violating various human rights.

The person disappears completely from the environments in which they used to be because of various agents, who are usually associated with the state or have their consent, drug trafficking or groups or people with some political and economic interest.

Most of the time it is not known what really happened to the missing persons. For this reason, so much anguish is manifested.

It is rare for these people to appear, but if they do, they usually have serious psychological and physical injuries. In addition, when they are captured and are in a torture process, they are often aware that their loved ones do not know their whereabouts and that it will be difficult for someone to help them.

Now, the anguish does not only exist in the person who disappears , their loved ones also have to face it. In fact, they enter into deep uncertainty by not having any trace of the person who disappeared. According to the United Nations, an enforced disappearance meets three criteria:

  • Deprivation of liberty against the will of the person.
  • Participation of government agents, at least indirectly.
  • Refusal to reveal the person’s whereabouts.

Organizations and mechanisms that seek to end the phenomenon

There are various groups and mechanisms that fight against enforced disappearance. Let’s see some:

  • International convention against disappearances. Its objective is to avoid the phenomenon, inquire for the truth, and give support to families, ensuring that they obtain justice and reparation.
  • Working group on enforced or involuntary disappearances. It was entrusted to follow the States in their progress in fulfilling their obligations. In addition, it is the oldest special procedure of the human rights commission.
  • Committee against enforced disappearances. It was established after the 2010 international convention, for the protection against enforced disappearances. It coexists with the working group establishing activities to prevent and eradicate this phenomenon.
  • Inter-American Commission on Human Rights. The member states of the organization of American states pledged to: not tolerate forced disappearance, punish its perpetrators and cooperate with each other to prevent, punish and eradicate this phenomenon.

In addition, there are various groups of each country, especially through the support of community leaders and organizations that are dedicated to helping victims. Even so, it remains an alarming event that continues to recur.

How to deal with enforced disappearance?

Before talking about coping strategies, we will emphasize what can cause enforced disappearance. Let’s go deeper:

  • Terror. Through the feeling of insecurity and fear that limits family members and people close to the disappeared.
  • Impact. In close people, in communities and in society.
  • Violation of rights. Such as security, dignity, not to suffer torture, or other cruel penalties; have humane detention conditions; the right to family life; to the life; to a fair trial, among others.
  • Pain that has no name. It is difficult for victims to put into words what they feel. After the trauma, a trace remains that makes them relive intense pain over and over again.

    Constructing a story of a disappearance, a narrative that the person can live with, is not an easy task . However, it can be worked on. Thus, this work and most of the strategies that have been developed rely on resilience.

    There are different ways to get there; fortunately resilience can be learned. For example, through psychotherapy or through community activities that encourage victims to feel supported to build their own story that they can integrate into their personal history.

    The objective is for the experience to become an anchor, a point of strength rather than a stone that sinks the person, more and more, in the ocean of negative valence emotions (sadness, fear, anger, etc. ).

    In addition, the victims could follow the path of art, it is about elaborating the anguish through the creative process, to be able to name that pain that we do not know how to process. Naming it means putting into words all that tangle of emotions, perceptions and thoughts. This will help us manage what we are experiencing.

    On the other hand, there are various investigations that have revealed valuable methods that are being worked on in order to manage the anguish caused by enforced disappearance.

    For example, Gabriel Gatti (University of the Basque Country) presents us in his article ” The language of victims: silences (noisy) and parodies (serious) to talk (without doing so) about the forced disappearance of people ” different proposals, born on all from the analysis of disappearances in Argentina and Uruguay. It is about betting on talking about the impossibility of speaking to what he calls noisy silences, and to force language to its limits, to what he calls serious parodies.

    Another example was carried out by the Cunningham Dax Collection, in collaboration with the Melbourne Jewish Holocaust Center. They held an exhibition with the works of the Holocaust survivors together with the families of the victims, in order to promote the transformation of trauma through art.

    We hope that initiatives will continue to be created both to deal with trauma and to prevent it in relation to enforced disappearance. That the social protest does not disappear, that we only decide to leave our homes at will, that we do not have to get up without knowing, against their will, where the people we love are.