The crime of enforced disappearance is considered one of the most serious human rights violations and can amount to a crime against humanity when practiced in a systematic or widespread manner. Enforced disappearance is defined in article 2 of the International Convention for the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearances (ICPPED) as “[…] the arrest, detention, abduction or any other form of deprivation of liberty by agents of the State or by persons or groups of persons acting with the authorization, support or acquiescence of the State, followed by a refusal to acknowledge the deprivation of liberty or by concealment of the fate or whereabouts of the disappeared person, which place such a person outside the protection of the law.”
This practice has been used in the Arab region for decades, and to date, thousands of families remain unaware of their relatives’ fate, and the cases pending before the Working Group on Enforced or Involuntary Disappearances (WGEID) represent only the tip of the iceberg. Not only is enforced disappearance used to silence political opponents, journalists or human rights defenders, but it is also a tool to terrorise entire societies. Additionally, these disappearances are often coupled with other gross human rights violations, such as the practice of torture, which is facilitated by the fact that victims are placed outside of protection of the law and have no access to legal remedies.
Lastly, the intense psychological suffering caused to the family of the victim by enforced disappearance has also been considered by the Human Rights Committee (HRCtee) as a form of torture and cruel inhumane and degrading treatment.