August 30 is the International Day of the Disappeared. Victims of enforced disappearance are people who have literally disappeared; from their loved ones and their community. They go missing when state officials (or someone acting with state consent) grabs them from the street or from their homes and then deny it, or refuse to say where they are. Sometimes disappearances may be committed by armed non-state actors, like armed opposition groups. And it is always a crime under international law.
These people are often never released and their fate remains unknown. Victims are frequently tortured and many are killed, or live in constant fear of being killed. They know their families have no idea where they are and that there is little chance anyone is coming to help them. Even if they escape death and are eventually released, the physical and psychological scars stay with them.
Amnesty International campaigns against enforced disappearances. We stand with the families of the disappeared in their quest to learn the fate of their loved ones. Read on to learn, and join the fight for justice for the disappeared.
Idris Khattak, a Pakistani human rights defender and researcher on enforced disappearances for Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch, was himself subjected to enforced disappearance by armed men on November 13, 2019. After an international outcry, the security agencies made the rare admission in June 2020 that he was in their custody. He is charged with espionage. However, his whereabouts still remain unknown. Please call on the Prime Minister of Pakistan to release Idris Khattak, to disclose his whereabouts to his family, and to hold accountable those who abducted him.
According to local reports, on 7 April 2020, Ibraimo Abú Mbaruco, a community radio journalist, was arbitrarily detained by military forces in Cabo Delgado Province, Mozambique. Ibraimo Abú Mbaruco was on his motorbike on his way home from work at around 6 p.m. when military officers allegedly approached him. He had time to send a text message to a colleague before he was taken away, in which he said: “Call me, I am being disturbed by militaries”. For over two years, he has not been seen or heard from and his whereabouts remain unknown. The authorities have not been forthcoming with information on the status of their investigation.
Amnesty International has estimated that there are 60,000 – 100,000 enforced disappearances in Sri Lanka in connection with internal armed conflicts over the past 40 years. One emblematic case is the disappeared journalist/cartoonist Prageeth Eknaligoda. He went missing after leaving work on January 24, 2010. Two days earlier, he had published an article critical of then President Mahinda Rajapaksa. Despite years of police investigations, the Sri Lankan government has not accounted for his fate. Please call on the government to conduct an effective investigation and bring to justice those responsible for his disappearance.
The Saturday Mothers have been protesting every Saturday in Galatasaray square in Istanbul since 1995, making them the longest sustained protest movement in Turkey. This movement was founded by mothers whose sons were forcibly disappeared during the 1980s. On June 25th, 2022, the occasion of their 900th vigil, riot police violently prevented these peaceful protestors from gathering and arrested multiple prominent human rights defenders who had joined them.
Imagine if you were detained in an internment camp or sentenced to prison for years merely because of your ethnicity; traveling or living or studying abroad, the number of children you have, or your religion. That’s the reality for huge numbers of predominantly Muslim people – perhaps 1 million or more – detained in Xinjiang since 2017. Family members are often unable to obtain information about persons who have gone missing in Xinjiang and are presumed to be detained. Amnesty International has gathered evidence of crimes against humanity by Chinese authorities including imprisonment in violation of international law, torture, and persecution.