Stand up for the disappeared

United Nations International Day of the Victims of Enforced Disappearances, 30 August 2017


They may come at any time – often in unmarked vans, wearing plain clothes, but sometimes openly, in uniform. The people they seize may never be seen again, and their arrest and detention may never be acknowledged. Held in secret, the “disappeared” are deprived of the protection of the law; often tortured.

Enforced disappearance is not a crime of the past. It is practiced by governments in every region, and in many countries is increasing. That's why the UN Human Rights Office has launched an initiative to double the number of ratifications of the International Convention for the Protection of all Persons from Enforced Disappearance within five years.


As of August 2017, 57 countries have ratified the Convention. Help us reach the goal of 112 ratifications by 2022!

Videos: Get inspired

Relatives of the disappeared speak up about their experiences in the hope that no one else will have to go through what they did.

Video Message of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights

Take Action

Stand up for the disappeared and their families. Not sure what to do? Here are a few ideas to get you started:

If you are a citizen/NGO...

  • Send letters to your government representatives and politicians to explain why they must ratify the Convention. Here is a template letter that you can use: English | Spanish | French

If you are a journalist...

  • Publish stories explaining to the general public what is enforced disappearance and why ratifying the Convention is important.

If you are a teacher...

  • Include enforced disappearance into the curriculum of social, legal and historical studies of your students.

If you are a student...

  • Consider including enforced disappearance in your school projects.

If you are a relative of a disappeared...

  • Speak up about your experience so that no one else will go through what you did.

Join the conversation

Learn more

What is the International Convention for the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearances and how does it protect people?

The International Convention for the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearance was adopted by General Assembly resolution A/RES/61/177 in December 2006 and came into force in December 2010. Countries that ratify the Convention agree to be legally bound by it and are called State Parties.

In short, the Convention:

  • Provides that no one shall be subject to enforced disappearance without exception, even in time of war or other public emergency
  • Obliges States parties to criminalize enforced disappearance and make it a punishable offence
  • Provides that enforced disappearance constitutes a crime against humanity when practiced in a widespread or systematic manner
  • Prohibits secret detention
  • Obliges State Parties to guarantee minimum legal standards around the deprivation of liberty, such as maintaining official registers of persons deprived of liberty with minimum of information and authorizing them to communicate with their family, counsel, or any other person of their choice.

Who oversees the Convention? How are States that have ratified the Convention held accountable?

A committee of 10 international independent experts, from all regions of the world, monitors the implementation of the Convention.

They follow-up with States who have ratified the Convention, through reports from States and visits, making comments and recommendations as necessary. They also receive and respond to complaints from victims of enforced disappearances, as well as complaints from States who claim other States are not living up to their obligations under the Convention.

The Committee meets twice a year in Geneva, Switzerland.

Visit the Committee's website to learn more about their work and to read the full text of the Convention.

  • Je respecterai vos droits, qui que vous soyez. Je défendrai vos droits même si je suis en désaccord avec vous.
  • Quand les droits d’une personne sont bafoués, ce sont les droits de tous qui sont compromis. C’est pourquoi je vais agir.
  • Je me ferai entendre. Je me mobiliserai. Avec mes droits, je défendrai les vôtres.

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