On 23rd December 2010 the International Convention for the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearance (Disappearances Convention) came into force after Iraq became the 20th country to ratify it. The Convention aims to establish the truth about enforced disappearances, punish perpetrators and provide reparations to victims and their families.
An enforced disappearance takes place when a person is arrested, detained or abducted by a state or agents acting for the state. The authorities then deny that the person is being held or conceal their whereabouts, placing them outside the protection of the law.
The ramifications of enforced disappearances are severe. Those disappeared are often tortured and subjected to cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment. In many cases, they are secretly killed and their remains are hidden. Family members and those close to the person disappeared are left not knowing what has happened to their loved one, whether they are alive or dead. Entire communities can fracture under pressure as people fear being associated with those targeted.
The United Kingdom is not (yet) a party to this Convention.
Further reading see International Law Professors and Amnesty and International Coalition against enforced disappearances.