When a person disappears, everything becomes impregnated with that person’s presence. Every single object as well as every space becomes a reminder of absence, as if absence were more important than presence.[1]

Sometime in the recent past, in the democratic republic of Y, Mr X lived with his family comprising of his parents, wife and school age children. Mr X, exulted, not only in his honesty and devotion towards his family and work, rather, took pride over his fidelity and adoration for his motherland. Ergo, embodying an archetype of an ideal citizen, Mr X endeavoured to strictly abide by the rules, regulations and laws of his nation. Simultaneously, enthralled and immersed neck-deep under the weight of responsibilities, Mr X had no time to channel his attention towards any controversial ideologies. In fact, Mr X bestowed pre-eminence to his accountabilities over wafting provocative tenets and refrained from being associated with any such dogmas, leave aside to be designated as a draughtsman of an upheaval. However, on one unfortunate occasion, Mr X was unwillingly elbowed into expressing his opinion on an exceedingly sensitive socio-political issue on a public platform. Ominously, on that particular occasion, Mr X despite his preliminary inhibitions, verbalised his views not only on the issue at hand, rather, indicated the ostensibly prudent course of action, which should have been espoused by the top leaders of Y to deliver a resolution to citizens’ concerns. Unsurprisingly, this interview amassed wide publicity on print and social media platforms, both, for its radical perspective and compelling reprimand of the government’s policies by a layman. Indubitably, though Mr X’s interview quickly plunged him into limelight, however, this simple “mistake” of expressing admonishment towards the authority in power proved to be quite detrimental for him as well as his family. Worryingly, since the day immediately succeeding a formal publication of his interview, Mr X neither returned to his home from work nor was any information pertaining to his whereabouts, obtainable. Increasingly, agonising was the fact that despite the tenacious pleadings and implorations by Mr X’s family members, no assistance in this regard was forthcoming, either from the State/Government or the country’s judicial machinery. Manifestly, with the passage of time Mr X could incontrovertibly be presumed dead as per the laws of Y, notwithstanding the waning hope of his return in the hearts of a few of his family members. Yet, as time lapsed, even these last shreds of sanguinity dwindled and eventually, obliterated. Concurrently, condition of Mr X’s ménage worsened with the demise of his parents, who could no longer bear with the anxiety and pain resultant due to their son’s unexpected disappearance. Therewithal, a grieving wife’s despair ruined the life of their kids, divesting them of any prospects of happiness and advancement in life. Ironically, even as on date, Mr X’s family is oblivious of the reasons leading to his sudden vaporisation, though, firmly hold on to his memories.

The narrative of Mr X’s disappearance and the consequent gloomy fate of his family members is neither a fable extracted out of some fictitious manual nor is it a recital of prevarication. On the contrary, to a million of families around the world, this chronicle is, regrettably, quite relatable and in fact, a part of their everyday’s reality and struggle. Verily, these incidents of sudden and unanticipated disappearances, conventionally christened under the international law as “enforced disappearance(s)” or “forced disappearance(s)”, are not some localised or exceptional occurrences, rather, ubiquitous and quite rampant across the globe. Nonetheless, it is quite paradoxical that these events, which patently tantamount to gross violation of countless human rights, remain brazenly unacknowledged and unashamedly disavowed by a majority of the word, even as on date. Simultaneously, pursuant to dearth of explicit laws and unambiguous guidelines to tackle the instances of enforced disappearance(s), not only are the rights of victims audaciously desecrated, rather, barely any respite is extended to their ailing family members. Consequently, the fate of victims’ kinsmen is not dissimilar to that of Mr X’s. Needless to state that pursuant to such incessant occurrences, despondently, while on one hand, overnight adverse consequences may ensue to the victims and their relatives, on the other hand, their unbridled endurance and propagation may indiscernibly lead to the ruination of fabrics of society and hollowing of the foundation of human rights.

Markedly, the term, “enforced disappearance” is defined under Article 2 of the International Convention for the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearance[2] (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 authorisation, 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.”

Similarly, Article II of the Inter-American Convention on Forced Disappearance of Persons[3] (IACFDP) enunciates forced disappearance as the act of,

 “depriving a person or persons of his or their freedom, in whatever way, perpetrated by agents of the State or by persons or groups of persons acting with the authorisation, support, or acquiescence of the State, followed by an absence of information or a refusal to acknowledge that deprivation of freedom or to give information on the whereabouts of that person, thereby impeding his or her recourse to the applicable legal remedies and procedural guarantees”.

Comparable definition of enforced disappearance is enshrined under Article 7(2)(i)[4] of the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court[5] (Rome Statute). In fact, as per Article 7(1)(i) of the Rome Statute, when enforced disappearance is perpetrated as part of a widespread and/or systemic attack against any civilian population, with knowledge of such attack, it is termed to amounts as “crime against humanity”.

Meaningfully, when these interpretations and definitions are examined in conjunction, it may be effortlessly deduced that at the core of numerous manifestations of enforced disappearance is a forceful and clandestine removal and/or illegal detention of personages either by or at the behest of the State or government authorities, though, feigning ignorance and unawareness of such incidents, however, designed to deprive these individuals of their rights to life, liberty, protection of law, etc. Further, though, on a superfluous exploration, incidents of enforced disappearance may seem to be motivated, primarily, by punitive and vindictive impulsions, however, on a deeper exploration of the impelling reasons thereof, it is patently observed that these events are commonly devised as means to eliminate dissent, perpetuate an element of fear into public, warrant conformance of laws and government policies, stifle possibility of a coup, etc.

Remarkably, the UN Human Rights Council[6] (UNHRC), while enumerating certain impetuses of these events, inter alia, noted,

“[e]nforced disappearance is used by Government and pro-government forces as a strategy of war, to stifle dissent and to spread terror within society. It is committed as part of a widespread attack against a civilian population, with knowledge of the attack, and constitutes a crime against humanity”.

Similarly, as per the United Nations (UN) Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights[7] (OHCHR), “[e]nforced disappearance has frequently been used as a strategy to spread terror within the society. The feeling of insecurity generated by this practice is not limited to the close relatives of the disappeared, but also affects their communities and society as a whole.”

However, irrespective of the reasons, which motivate occurrence of such episodes, it is quite appreciable that the sheer conception and employment of enforced disappearance vests on a barefaced negation of rights of individuals and therefore, essentially, runs antagonistic to the concepts of democracy, civil liberties, etc. Nonetheless, despite a universal consciousness of severe adverse consequences resultant due to enforced disappearance(s), this leviathan is permitted to sprint unfastened and unfettered across the globe, leading to profound and tenacious human rights concerns.

Significantly, one of the earliest manifestations of surreptitious detention and enforced disappearance of personages may be traced back to the proclamation of the “night and fog decree” (Nacht und Nebel Erlass) under the Nazi regime. As per this dictate[8], persons in the Nazi-occupied territories and allegedly “endangering German security” were clandestinely transported to Germany, leaving behind neither a trail of their transportation and vanishing nor an intimation regarding their whereabouts to their family members. Intelligibly, the objective behind the proclamation of this decree and its extensive deployment may reasonably be presumed to be directed towards systemic elimination of voices of dissent against the oppressive regime, propagation of fear, etc. In this regard, the International Military Tribunal (Nuremberg) in its judgment of 1-10-1946[9], whilst, inter alia, recounting the genesis of said directive, observed:

On 7-12-1941, Hitler issued the directive since known as the ‘Nacht und Nebel Erlass’ (night and fog decree), under which persons who committed offences against the Reich or the German forces in occupied territories, except where the death sentence was certain, were to be taken secretly to Germany and handed over to the Sipo and SD for trial or punishment in Germany. This decree was signed by the defendant Keitel. After these civilians arrived in Germany, no word of them was permitted to reach the country from which they came, or their relatives; even in cases when they died awaiting trial, the families were not informed, the purpose being to create anxiety in the minds of the family of the arrested person.

Pertinently, as per some historical accounts and authors of international law[10], even prior to the issuance of the night and fog decree by Hitler, “[a]n incipient form of these practices (enforced disappearance) was, however, already well known in the former Soviet Union, with its Gulag system of forced-labour camps, first established under Vladimir Lenin during the early Bolshevik years”. Notwithstanding the absence of clarity regarding the exact time and location of the origin of enforced disappearance, this sinister institution quickly metastasized across the globe, silently proliferating right under the noses of even the top democracies of the world. In fact, like an uncontained contagion or undetected spores of fungi, this evil reached even the most impenetrable recesses of the globe, transmogrifying into one of the most potent, yet covert devices in the hands of such authorities/State(s).

Significantly, in the year 2000, the (then) President of the Latin American Federation of Associations for Relatives of Detained-Disappeared Persons (FEDEFAM), while acknowledging[11], “far from being eradicated, enforced disappearances are continuing and have spread to a number of continents; they are motivated by various forms of discrimination, a fact which dramatically increases the number of victims and geographical regions affected”, expressed an urgent need for the conception and execution of a convention on enforced disappearance. However, despite several entreaties of like kind and an altogether dismal ground reality, flagrant disavowal by several States, eminent leaders, governments and authorities of the world of the factum of perseverance and rapid proliferation of incidents of enforced disappearance has imparted an unwarranted stimulus for the intensification of this iniquity in huge proportions.

Conspicuously, the United Nations General Assembly on 20-12-2006 while, inter alia, appreciating the extreme seriousness of incidents of enforced disappearance; emphasising on the right(s) of any victim to know the truth about the circumstances of enforced disappearance and the fate of the disappeared person; acknowledging the right of victims to justice along with reparation and further resolving to prevent the commission of such events, adopted ICPPED vide its Resolution bearing A/RES/61/177. Significantly[12], ICPPED came into force on 23-12-2010 and as on date; ninety-eight States have signed and sixty-four States ratified the terms thereof.

Pertinently, Article 1 of ICPPED out rightly declares that no one shall be subjected to enforced disappearance and that, “[n]o exceptional circumstances whatsoever, whether a state of war or a threat of war, internal political instability or any other public emergency, may be invoked as a justification for enforced disappearance”. Articles 4 and 7 of the ICPPED, further, oblige the contracting States thereof to take necessary measures to ensure that enforced disappearance is designated as an offence under their corresponding domestic criminal law(s) and that the said offence is punishable by appropriate penalties, taking into account its extreme seriousness, respectively.

Strikingly, Article 8 of the said Convention impels the State parties, which apply statute of limitations in respect of enforced disappearance, to take all necessary measures to ensure that the term of limitation for such criminal proceedings,

“(a) is of long duration and is proportionate to the extreme seriousness of this offence; and

(b) commences from the moment when the offence of enforced disappearance ceases, taking into account its continuous nature”.

Simultaneously, in order to ensure that the perpetrators of enforced disappearance(s) do not evade from their consequent penal ramifications, Article 13 of ICPPED, inter alia, not only excludes the said offence from being regarded as a political offence, excusable from extradition, rather, mandates the contracting States to adopt measures to ensure that enforced disappearance is treated as an extraditable offence and offer utmost cooperation amongst themselves to bring the perpetrators of this crime to justice. Additionally, Article 16 of ICPPED encompasses the principle of non-refoulement, obliging the State parties, not to, “expel, return (refouler), surrender or extradite a person to another State where there are substantial grounds for believing that he or she would be in danger of being subjected to enforced disappearance”.

Concomitantly, Article 26 of the ICPPED further envisions establishment of a Committee on Enforced Disappearances (Committee), “to carry out the functions provided for under this Convention” and Article 42 of the said Convention, provides for arbitral mechanism to resolve, “[a]ny dispute between two or more States parties concerning the interpretation or application of this Convention which cannot be settled through negotiation or by the procedures expressly provided for in this Convention”.

Pertinently, one of the most significant attributes of ICPPED is the expansive definition of the term, “victim” as the, “disappeared person and any individual who has suffered harm as the direct result of an enforced disappearance” along with a right of such individuals to seek reparation and prompt, fair and adequate compensation, in the manner as envisaged under Article 24 thereof. Notably, such an expansive definition of victim(s) under ICPPED is a laudable endeavour and seems to coincide with several earlier declarations and acknowledgements to the effect that the person aggrieved by such brutalities are not only those directly subjected to such inflictions, rather, also their family members. Illustratively, in this regard, the Council of Europe: Parliamentary Assembly in one of its Reports[13], inter alia, endorsed,

“[o]ften, the disappeared persons are killed immediately, but their spouses, children or parents continue to live for many years in a situation of extreme anguish and stress, torn between hope and despair. They must therefore also to be considered as victims of the crime of enforced disappearance”.

Needless to mention, several international organisations have, concurrently and persistently accentuated on a need of prompt notification of the family members of the direct victims of enforced disappearance, torture, etc., regarding the truth behind such instances and whereabouts of such persons. In fact, in this regard the United Nations Commission on Human Rights (UNCHR) in one of the Reports[14], accentuated,

“[i]n cases of gross human rights violations – such as torture, extrajudicial executions and enforced disappearance –serious violations of humanitarian law and other crimes under international law, victims and their relatives are entitled to the truth. The right to the truth also has a societal dimension: society has the right to know the truth about past events concerning the perpetration of heinous crimes, as well as the circumstances and the reasons for which aberrant crimes came to be committed, so that such events do not reoccur in the future”.

Similarly, the Human Rights Council[15], while, inter alia, appreciating, “Family members’ victimisation becomes even greater when men, who mainly suffer the fate of enforced disappearances, were the head of household. Here, enforced disappearance of men results in entire families becoming victims of enforced disappearances. As the family structure is disrupted, women are negatively affected economically, socially and psychologically. The emotional upheaval is thus exacerbated by material deprivation, made more acute by the costs incurred should they decide to undertake a search for their loved ones. Furthermore, they do not know when—if ever—their loved one is going to return, which makes it difficult for them to adapt to the new situation. In some cases, national legislation may make it impossible to draw a pension or receive other means of support in the absence of a death certificate. Therefore, economic and social marginalisation is frequently the result of an enforced disappearance”, recommended adoption of reparation programmes directed towards a wide/comprehensive category of victims, including individuals affected, both directly and indirectly due to such incidents.

Evidently, appreciating the travails of kinsmen of individuals directed subjected to enforced disappearance, the significance of articulation of an expansive definition of victim under ICPPED cannot be overemphasised. Notwithstanding the various laudable attempts made by virtue of adoption of ICPPED and the fact that the Convention represents a significant progress in international law[16], “in particular by defining the non-derogable right not to be subjected to an enforced disappearance”, perceptibility, its provisions are often critiqued[17], inter alia, on the ground that, “in restricting international criminalisation to enforced disappearances perpetrated or supported by State agents, the Convention enshrines an existing gap by allowing non-State agents to evade international criminal responsibility for acts of enforced disappearance that do not amount to torture or a crime against humanity”. However, despite such opprobrium, fact remains that ICPPED charts out momentous principles and rules, aimed to truncate and eventually annihilate the malevolence of enforced disappearance. Accordingly, it would not be overemphasis to state that the provisions under ICPPED represent a crucial stride towards the acknowledgement of the adverse consequences of enforced disappearance and prescribe certain laudable steps towards its mitigation.

Pertinently, preceding the advent of ICPPED, member States of the Organisation of American States[18] (OAS), while, inter alia, certifying that the systemic practice of forced disappearance of persons constitutes a crime against humanity and hoping to, “prevent, punish, and eliminate the forced disappearance of persons in the hemisphere and make a decisive contribution to the protection of human rights and the rule of law”, adopted the Inter-American Convention on the Forced Disappearance of Persons(IACFDP) in the year 1994. Significantly, the commitment of the State parties to IACFDP is manifest under Article I thereof, wherein such participants, inter alia, approved,

“not to practice, permit or tolerate the forced disappearance of persons, even in States of emergency or suspension of individual guarantees; to punish within their territories, those persons who commit or attempt to commit the crime of forced disappearance of persons and their accomplices and accessories; to cooperate with one another in helping to prevent, punish and eliminate the forced disappearance of persons and to take legislative, administrative, judicial, and any other measures necessary to comply with the commitments undertaken in this Convention”.

Provisions relating to contracting States’ obligations relating to the categorisation of incidents of forced disappearance of persons as offence and adoption of measures to establish State’s jurisdiction over such offence(s) have been incorporated under Articles III and IV of IACFDP. Further, Articles VII of IACFDP, subject to the proviso/exception[19] envisaged therein, excludes the criminal prosecution for forced disappearance persons from the purview of statutes of limitations. Article VIII of the said Convention, additionally provides that in the events of such prosecutions the “defence of due obedience to superior orders or instructions that stipulate, authorise, or encourage forced disappearance shall not be admitted”. Similarly, as per Article X of IACFDP, exceptional circumstances such as, “a state of war, the threat of war, internal political instability, or any other public emergency” have been precluded to be invoked as a justification of forced disappearance of persons. Notably, Articles IX and XI of IACFDP enunciate the provisions pertaining to the trial of persons accused to be responsible for the commission of offence of forced disappearance of persons and prompt reproduction of detained individuals before competent judicial, in accordance with the applicable domestic laws of contracting States, respectively. Further, strikingly, Article XII of IACFDP obligate the State parties thereof to, “give each other mutual assistance in the search for, identification, location, and return of minors who have been removed to another State or detained therein as a consequence of the forced disappearance of their parents or guardians”.

Meritoriously, provisions under the IACFDP have untiringly been proved to be a beacon of hope for countless victims of forced disappearance and frequently deployed by institutions/organisations such as the Inter-American Court of Human Rights (IACtHR) to deliver respite to the travails of such individuals. Markedly, one of the instances wherein the provisions of the IACFDP, besides that under the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR), etc., were invoked by the IACtHR pertained to incident of enforced disappearance of one María Claudia García Iruretagoyena de Gelman since late 1976[20], subsequent to her detention in Buenos Aires, during the advanced stages of her pregnancy. Notably, it was revealed that subsequently to her detention, María Claudia García was transported to Uruguay where she remained captive at the headquarters of Defense Information Services (SID) for a considerable duration and was eventually shifted to the Military Hospital, where her daughter, María Macarena Gelman García, was born. Despondently, notwithstanding the birth of María Macarena Gelman García, the condition of María Claudia García and her child did not ameliorate. On the contrary, in this regard, it was observed by the IACtHR, “there are two versions regarding María Claudia García’s fate: the first, that she was transferred to a clandestine military base where she was killed and her remains buried, and the second, that after her daughter was abducted from her, she was turned over to the Argentine security forces of “Automotives Orletti.” Said forces came to Montevideo, took her back to Argentina by a boat departing from the Carmelo port, and killed her in the neighbouring country.”

Pertinently, in this particular instance, while considering the extreme audaciousness in which María Claudia García’s rights were invalidated and nullified by the State and its machineries, the IACtHR was pleased to hold the said authorities not only liable for gross violation of her right to humane treatment, personal integrity, right to protection of family, right of fair trail, etc., rather, issued several reparative measures, inter alia, pertaining to the administration/carrying out of effective investigation by State in order to ascertain the facts and to, “determine the corresponding criminal, civil, and administrative responsibilities and apply the consequential sanctions provided by law”; acceleration of search and immediate location of María Claudia García, or of her bodily remains, “and, where appropriate, deliver them to her next of kin, after genetic parentage testing”; payment of compensation in the form of pecuniary and non-pecuniary damage by State and the reimbursement of costs and expenses in a prescribed manner; etc. Strikingly, while dealing with the facts of the present case, the IACtHR further explicitly avowed that enforced disappearance of persons, “constitutes a multiple violation of several rights protected by the American Convention, thereby placing the victim in a state of complete defenselessness, implying other related violations, particularly serious when said harm forms part of a systematic pattern or practice which is applied or tolerated by the State.” Simultaneously, it was acknowledged that the practice of enforced disappearance of persons constitutes, “an inexcusable abandonment of the essential principles on which the Inter-American System of Human Rights is founded and whose prohibition has reached the character of jus cogens”.

Similarly, in another instance[21], the IACtHR, while terming forced disappearance of persons as a continuing crime, constituting a complex form of human rights violation, declared,

“[f]orced disappearance signifies a flagrant rejection of the values inherent in human dignity and the most basic principles on which the inter-American system and the American Convention itself are based. It is equally evident that this crime implies a series of violations of different rights embodied in the Convention and that, in order to declare the violation of these rights, the Court does not require the defendant State to have ratified the relevant Inter-American Convention, nor does it require this in order to classify all these violations as forced disappearance”.

Notably, similar sentiments were earlier expressed under the 1992 UN Declaration on the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearance[22] (1992 UN Declaration), while terming the act of enforced disappearance as an offence to human dignity and condemning it as a, “denial of the proposes of the Charter of the United Nations and as a grave and flagrant violation of human rights and fundamental freedoms proclaimed in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights”. Simultaneously, Article 1(2) of the 1992 UN Declaration proclaimed,

“act of enforced disappearance places the persons subjected thereto outside the protection of law and inflicts severe suffering on them and their families. It constitutes a violation of the rule of international law guaranteeing, inter alia, the right to recognition as a person before the law, the right to liberty and security of the person and the right not to be subjected to torture and other cruel, inhumane or degrading treatment or punishment. It also violates or constitutes a grave threat to the right to life”.

Unfortunately, despite unremitting pleadings regarding an imminent need to contain the nativity, propagation and perpetuation of enforced disappearance and the consequent emergence of several concordats such as the ICPPED, Inter-American Convention, etc., to tackle this evil, the situation has not improved, markedly till date. As a matter of fact, there are several countries and individuals across the globe, suffering under the pernicious ravages of enforced disappearance.

Notably, in one such research conducted by Amnesty International[23] into the episodes of enforced disappearance committed by the Government in Syria from March 2011 to August 2015 it was, inter alia, divulged,

 “Since 2011 the Syrian Government has carried out an orchestrated campaign of enforced disappearances. At the beginning of the crisis it arrested and forcibly disappeared large numbers of peaceful opponents of the Government…. As the conflict evolved, so too did the Government’s strategy. It forcibly disappeared those it considered to be disloyal, such as defectors as well as government employees or soldiers who were believed to be considering defection. The Government also began forcibly disappearing family members of individuals wanted by the security forces, usually in an effort to dissuade these wanted individuals from continuing their political activism or military activities.”

 Similarly, as per another despairing recollection[24],

“[a]pproximately one million Syrians are estimated to have been arbitrarily arrested and unlawfully detained since 2011, by Government forces and affiliated militias in official and makeshift detention centers throughout the Syrian Arab Republic. In 2017 only, according to the Syrian Network for Human Rights, 6517 persons were arrested… 85,000 people have been subjected to enforced disappearance by the Syrian Government since 2011…vast majority of detainees are being held without due process and are not allowed access to legal representation or to their families. They endure various forms of brutal torture and subsist in severely inhumane conditions. Many have died in detention, while others have been summarily executed….”

Further, even in one of the recent accounts[25] of the Human Rights Watch, it was, disconsolately, observed, “exact number of disappeared in Syria cannot be determined because the overwhelming majority of detention facilities are off limits to outsiders. Those detained by government security services or many of the non-State armed groups in Syria are usually held incommunicado”.

Gloomily, these incidents eventuated and prevailed regardless of the fact that the UN Security Council in its 2139thResolution[26] had not only expressed vehement condemnation against the episodes of kidnappings, abductions, forced disappearances, arbitrary detentions and tortures of civilians in Syrian prisons/detention facilities, rather, demanded an immediate end thereof along with the release of, “all arbitrarily detained persons starting with women and children, as well as sick, wounded and elderly people and including United Nations personnel and journalists”. Withal, increasingly agonising is the fact that even as on date, such brutalities are openly manifested in Syria without any fright or consternation, leading to glaring and shameless pulverisation of human rights, including, unequivocal privation of rights to life and liberty of countless individuals.

Another equally distressing exemplification of enforced disappearance may be discerned in the context of overnight and clandestine disappearance of inestimable persons in Myanmar, particularly, those belonging to the Rohingya tribe from the Rakhine State of the country. As a matter of fact, pursuant to several barbaric incidents such as mass genocides, ethnic cleansing, pogrom, etc., perpetuate and/or sheltered by the Government of the country, millions of families have been rendered disintegrated, several lives lost and countless souls dissipated into oblivion.

Notably, the International Federation for Human Rights in one of its publications[27], while evaluating the seriousness of the situation prevailing in the country, recounted, “Enforced disappearances occur throughout Burma. In the total absence of the rule of law, an independent judiciary and legal remedies, the State Peace and Development Council (SPDC) has the absolute power to commit such violations without any investigation or protection mechanisms. The relatives of victims of enforced disappearances have no effective remedies.”

Similarly, the United Nations General Assembly in its Sixty-fourth Session[28], whilst expressing grave concern regarding the insistent practice of arbitrary detentions, enforced disappearances, etc., in Myanmar, urged the country’s Government to, inter alia, “reveal the whereabouts of persons who are detained or have been subjected to enforced disappearance, and to desist from further politically motivated arrests”. Needless to mention, such pleadings were quickly and conveniently brushed aside by even the top bureaucrats of Myanmar, leading to worsening of situation of the tyrannised. In fact, the prevailing ghastly policies of the Burmese regime and interminable resentment towards Rohingya population have desolately, made it quite manageable for the propagandists to extricate and vaporise legions of such individuals, without a trace of their whereabouts or existence.

Morosely, episodes of extra-judicial killing, enforced disappearance, torture and death in police custody, etc., have also been uncovered to be a commonplace in Myanmar’s neighbouring country, Bangladesh. As a matter of fact, appreciating the exacting and extremely distressing state of affairs in Bangladesh, Human Rights Watch in one of its disseminations[29], observed, “there had been a sharp increase in enforced disappearances, with persons disappearing after last being seen in the custody of security agencies leading to concerns that security agencies have replaced one form of abuse with another. Bangladeshi authorities routinely refuse to confirm the detention or fate of those persons who disappear after being seen in their custody”.

Similarly, Amnesty International[30], while lamenting on the gravity of prevailing situation in Bangladesh, accentuated, “Investigations into enforced disappearances are rare in Bangladesh. The police usually refuse to register complaints, only doing so when the families have obtained a court directive ordering an investigation. Even then, police usually do little to investigate the incident.” Regrettably, the indefatigable manifestations of these incidents has become a source of grave distress, considering that there have been countless proclamations reprimanding such conduct and accentuating a need for country’s commitment towards international rules, norms and customary practices. At the same time, while on one hand, the Supreme Court of Bangladesh, High Court Division[31] in one of its decisions, sternly rebuked the incidents of unlawful detention, arrests, torture, cruel, inhumane and degrading treatment in custody, etc., on the other hand, there have been several voices[32], professing that despite Bangladesh’s non-signatory status to ICPPED, “it still has obligations under the ICCPR (International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights) and the CAT (Convention against Torture) to prevent cases of enforced disappearance”.

Withal, akin to Myanmar’s instance, these entreaties failed to arouse any sentiments of responsibility or obligation in the sleeping conscience of Bangladesh’s top brass, leading to the undeterred continuation of barbarity in the county. Further, ominously, in order to evade the despairing fate and misfortune looming in Myanmar and Bangladesh, several individuals were forced to take refuge in other neighbouring countries. However, as may be predicted, quandaries of such agonised migrants escalate tremendously on their exodus as these stateless individuals become an easy prey to the “marauder” of enforced disappearances and susceptible to innumerable defilements, such as trafficking, prostitution, assassination, etc. Markedly, on one such occasion, UNHRC, while scrutinising the instances of disappearance of Rohingyas and Bangladeshi migrants in Thailand and Malaysia, uncovered[33], “In 2015, several mass graves were discovered in the border areas between Thailand and Malaysia. It was reported that some of the victims had been forced by traffickers to embark on boats leaving from Myanmar and Bangladesh. Earlier reports were published to the effect that Myanmar State security forces were complicit in and profiting from the increasingly lucrative maritime human trafficking and smuggling of Rohingya.”  Evidently, in several instances of enforced disappearances it has been sadly observed that not only do the guardians and protectors of rights transmute into their ultimate transgressors, rather, shamelessly profit out of such heinous dealings.

Despairingly, incidents of enforced disappearance are also not novel to countries like Sri Lanka, Pakistan, India, etc. Conspicuously, as per Amnesty International[34], “Sri Lanka has one of the world’s highest number of disappearances, with between 60,000 and 100,000 people vanishing since the late 1980s.” Similarly, Human Rights Watch in the year 2008[35], inter alia, observed, “large-scale enforced disappearances are not a new phenomenon in Sri Lanka. In the past, thousands of people have ‘disappeared’ in the context of the two major civil conflicts that have wracked the country since independence: the insurgency led by the left-wing Sinhalese Janatha Vimukthi Peramuna (JVP) in 1987-1990, and the two-decade long armed conflict between the LTTE and the Government”. Significantly, though, Sri Lanka ratified ICPPED in May 2016 and subsequently, adopted a specific law[36] (Act No. 05 of 2018/Act) in the year 2018, to give effect to its obligations under the said Convention, however, the country is yet to observe noticeable evolution from its prevailing distressing state of affairs. This is despite the fact that under the said enactment, not only the definition of enforced disappearance, accorded a broad connotation rather, stringent penalties extending to, “imprisonment for a term not exceeding twenty years, and also be liable to pay a fine not exceeding one million rupees and shall further be liable to pay compensation not less than five hundred thousand rupees to a victim”, prescribed for such offence. Strikingly, under the Act, penalties are also prescribed for wrongful confinement, abduction, kidnapping or deprivation of persons’ liberty, etc.; failure of superiors to exercise control over subordinates under their effective authority or to adopt measures, etc., to curb occurrences of such offences; aiding, abetting, attempting and conspiring to commit any of the offences provided under the Act, etc. Notwithstanding the same, these provisions have endured to remain mere words on paper, without proving to be of significant deterrence to their perpetrators.

Similarly[37] despite the Supreme Court of Pakistan, recurrently expressing strong opinions, “including calling for the establishment of a commission of inquiry to investigate cases of enforced disappearance, and (holding) that the principles enshrined in the ICPPED are applicable notwithstanding the fact that the Government has not ratified the treaty”, the ground realities are quite austere. Ominously in the year, 2016, while appreciating the grim situation prevalent in the country, Asian Human Rights Commission[38], raised an alarm by, inter alia, noting, “[a]lthough the Pakistan Supreme Court has declared enforced disappearances unconstitutional and a blatant violation of the fundamental right to life, yet the state and intelligence agencies continue the practice unabated. The trend is increasing each year and shows no signs of stopping soon…. Many activists have disappeared or been killed since the start of the military operation Zarb-e-Azb in Pakistan.” Strikingly, in the year 2021, the Minister of Human Rights of Pakistan introduced the Criminal Laws (Amendment) Bill, 2021 in the National Assembly of the country, primarily to criminalise incidents of enforced disappearance(s). Notably, by means of the said Amendment Sections 512 and 513 were proposed to be introduced under the Pakistan Penal Code, 1860[39], defining forcible or involuntary disappearances and prescribing punishment(s) for forcible or involuntary disappearances, respectively.

Ironically, both in the case of Sri Lanka and Pakistan, despite being equipped with rudimentary legal frameworks to deal with the problem of enforced disappearance, reluctance of the countries to establish and implement stringent statutory prescriptions to contain the said evil is quite difficult to comprehend and concede to.

Markedly, despite ample protections against unlawful arrest, detention, confinement, etc., under the Constitution of India[40] and several of the country’s statutes[41], there have been several situations where these provisions failed to prove to be of sufficient deterrence to curtail the blatant and unabated atrocious acts by the Indian Government, police, security forces, etc. As a matter of fact, the country, despite professing itself as a perfect exemplification of the democracy, ironically, has witnessed numerous instances of gruesome human rights violation, custodial deaths, violence, torture, enforced disappearances, etc., effectuated by said authority(ies) in power. Illustratively, according to one of the reports/publications[42] of the Association of Parents of Disappeared Persons (APDP), it was uncovered that in India, “enforced disappearances have taken place in the North-East States reeling under armed conflict, like Nagaland, Mizoram, Manipur, Assam. The Disappearances in the State of Punjab since 1985 to 1997 were documented by the different human right organisations, including the Committee for Coordination on Disappearances in Punjab…. The phenomenon of enforced disappearances emerged in Kashmir after 1989, after the outbreak of armed conflict….It is reported that more than 2000 people since 1989, after their arrests by the law enforcing agencies have disappeared. And the disappearances have taken place during the Governor as well as civilian rule imposed in State since 1989 by the Government of India”.

Comparably, the United States Department of State pronounced[43], “[t]here are credible reports that police throughout India often do not file required arrest reports, with the result that there are hundreds of unsolved disappearances in which relatives claim a person was taken into police custody and never heard from again. Police usually deny these claims, countering that there are no records of arrest….”

This problem is particularly acute in Punjab, where there was a sharp rise in reported disappearances as the police sought to eliminate militants and their supporters. Sikh human rights groups reported dozens of disappearances in which police claimed they never held a person, even when there were witnesses to the arrest”. Further, in one of the studies conducted by Amnesty International[44], it was inter alia, recorded, “[i]n January 1995 the human rights wing of the Shiromani Akali Dal party alleged that it had evidence showing that, during the period of militancy, Punjab Police had carried out secret cremations of hundreds of “unclaimed” bodies in the crematoria of Amritsar District. The party said that some of the bodies were those of people who had “disappeared” in police custody and had been extrajudicially executed.” Significantly, pursuant to said accusations, proceedings were filed before the Supreme Court of the country, inter alia, seeking a police investigation of the alleged incident/episode. Consequently, the Supreme Court entrusted the investigative task to the Central Bureau of Investigation/CBI, wherefore it was shockingly, revealed[45] that around 2097 bodies were illegally cremated by police and other State authorities, etc., at three cremation grounds in one of the (then) thirteen districts of the State, alone. Eventually, taking cognizance of the said CBI’s uncovering, the Supreme Court vide its order of December 1996[46], beseeched the Chairman of the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC), “to have the matter examined in accordance with law and determine all the issues which are raised before the Commission by the learned counsel for the parties”. Additionally, the Supreme Court directed NHRC to determine even the amount of compensation to be granted to the victims of such brutalities, clarifying that the amount of compensation determined/awarded by NHRC shall be binding and payable.

In another instance, the Supreme Court of India[47] while affirming that in addition to the protection provided under the Constitution, “the Protection of Human Rights Act, 1993[48], also provides for protection of all rights to every individual. It inhibits illegal detention, emphasised on the obligation of State to ensure prohibition of torture, cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment to any person, particularly at the hands of any State agency/police force. Accordingly, the Supreme Court firmly avowed that the State must “protect the victims of torture, ill-treatment as well as the human rights defender fighting for the interest of the victims, giving the issue serious consideration for the reason that victims of torture suffer enormous consequences psychologically”.

Exceptionally, in another instance, while dealing with the instances of unlawful detention and confinement, motivated by the authority(ies) in power, the Supreme Court stressed upon the significance of writ of habeas corpus as an effective remedy, accessible to the victims of such misdeeds. In fact in the instant case the Supreme Court openly declared[49] that the said writ (habeas corpus) is, “primarily designed to give a person restrained of his liberty a speedy and effective remedy for having the legality of his detention enquired into and determined and if the detention is found to be unlawful, having himself discharged and freed from such restraint”.

Similarly, in Ummu Sabeena v. State of Kerala[50], the Court remarked,

  1. … writ of habeas corpus is the oldest writ evolved by the common law of England to protect the individual liberty against its invasion in the hands of the executive or may be also at the instance of private persons.…
  2. … writ of habeas corpus makes it a writ of the highest constitutional importance being a remedy available to the lowliest citizen against the most powerful authority…. That is why it has been said that the writ of habeas corpus is the key that unlocks the door to freedom….

Undoubtedly, though, the provisions under the country’s Constitution as well as the persistent declarations from its Supreme Court should have plentiful to deal with the menace of enforced disappearance in India, however, the reality is far different. Appreciably in the year 2018, while appreciating that enforced disappearances are “human rights violations which not only cause an unlawful deprivation of liberty of the individual, but cause psychological, economic and social distress to the families of the ‘’disappeared’ individual who are unaware of the fate of the person” and that persistent, disconsolate, occurrence of such incidents of grave human rights violation in India[51], the Prevention of Enforced Disappearance Bill, 2018 (2018 Bill) was introduced in one of the houses/Lok Sabha of the Indian Parliament. Strikingly, Section 3 of the 2018 Bill, inter alia, provides,

Whoever, being a public servant or being abetted by a public servant or with the consent or acquiescence of a public servant, intentionally does any act which deprives any person of his liberty, including arrest, detention, or abduction, which is followed by a refusal to acknowledge such deprivation of liberty or concealment of the fate or whereabouts of the disappeared person, which place such a person outside the protection of the law is said to effect an enforced disappearance.

Further, as per Section 4 of the said Bill, subjection of any person to enforced disappearance by any public servant or any person abetted by or with the consent or acquiescence of such public servant is stipulated to be punishable with, “imprisonment of either description for a term which shall not be less than three years but which may extend up to ten years and shall also be liable to fine”. Simultaneously, Section 5 of the 2018 Bill provides for punishment for disregarding information of an enforced disappearance(s) by any public servant, effectuated by any of his subordinates and a consequent failure to submit such matter(s) to the competent authority for investigation and prosecution. Intelligibly, the 2018 Bill incorporated several provisions to deal with the issue of enforced disappearance, head-on. However, the proposed statute aimed to, inter alia, fulfil the country’s commitment, “to the United Nations to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and to a legal system that offers remedies for human rights violations by the State” failed to transmute into a binding enactment. Disconsolately, these despicable events continue undeterred across the country, blotting its image on an international platform on one hand, while precipitating an element of fear, uncertainty and anxiety amongst the general public.

Conspicuously, it would not been an overemphasis to state that the incidents of enforced disappearance are not exclusive to the developing and underdeveloped nations of the world, rather, this problem is quite rampant and exists in equal vigour in the developed countries, such as Russia, Ireland, Spain, etc. In fact, there have been several instances where the jurisdiction of the European Court of Human Rights has been invoked to seek justice/reparation in the events of enforced disappearance, torture, etc. These proceedings, in turn, are primarily dealt with in accordance with the various provisions enshrined under the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR). However, despite the existence of this machinery, it has been oft-times observed[52] that courts’ judgments under such cases, “remain poorly or only slowly implemented. Investigations are very seldom launched, thus prolonging impunity for serious human rights violations and perpetuating the violation of the victims’ rights to truth and justice”. Consequently, in the absence of effective mechanism for the execution of the said pronouncements, it has frequently been observed that these limited protective contraptions have proved to be grossly inadequate to ameliorate the plight of victims. Needless to state that under the circumstances, it becomes incumbent that not only gross human rights violations, perpetuated in the form of enforced disappearances are acknowledged and sanctioned, rather, it is ensured that the punitive measures adopted under such circumstances are given effect to. At the same time, it has become an impending need of the hour that the countries, avoiding ratification of international conventions and legislation of domestic laws to handles such barbarous instances appreciate their responsibility towards their citizens and world community and adopt effective measures in the said direction.

Notably, in this context, the UNHRC’s Commission of Inquiry[53], while analysing the existing grim situation and perseverance of systemic, widespread and gross human rights violations in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea¸ inter alia, recommended[54] the country’s Government to, “[r]atify without delay the International Convention for the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearance, the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court and the fundamental conventions of the International Labour Organisation”. Understandably, said commendation was made, inter alia, in light of the findings of the Commission that the,

“keystone to the political system is the vast political and security apparatus that strategically uses surveillance, coercion, fear and punishment to preclude the expression of any dissent. Public executions and enforced disappearance to political prison camps serve as the ultimate means to terrorise the population into submission. The State’s violence has been externalised through State-sponsored abductions and enforced disappearances of people from other nations. These international enforced disappearances are unique in their intensity, scale and nature”.

However, unfortunately the country failed to appreciate its accountability and take appropriate steps in light of the Commission’s recommendations grimly leading to not even a fragmental change in the country’s dismal state of affairs.

Intelligibly, in majority instances of enforced disappearance the consequent events of torture, degrading and inhumanely treatment, death, etc., are, sadly, quite obvious to anticipate/expect. Pertinently, even in the cases where no physical torture or threat may ensure consequent upon such acts of illegal detention and enforced disappearance, clandestine removal and separation of victim from his or her family ipso facto amounts to a mental and psychological abuse/maltreatment, no less than infliction of actual bodily pain.

In fact, an appreciation of this verity seems to be the reason that Article 1 of Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment[55] (UNCAT), comprehensively defines the term “torture” as,

“any act by which severe pain or suffering, whether physical or mental, is intentionally inflicted on a person for such purposes as obtaining from him or a third person information or a confession, punishing him for an act he or a third person has committed or is suspected of having committed, or intimidating or coercing him or a third person, or for any reason based on discrimination of any kind, when such pain or suffering is inflicted by or at the instigation of or with the consent or acquiescence of a public official or other person acting in an official capacity”.

Significantly, Articles 4 and 5 of the said Convention oblige its contracting State parties to ensure that all acts of tortures including attempts, complicity, or participation therein are declared as offences under their respective criminal law(s), punishable by appropriate penalties depending on the gravity of the said offence and that appropriate measures are adopted to establish State’s jurisdiction in all such events of commission of offence of torture, respectively. Provisions pertaining to extradition, custody, mutual cooperation amongst States, etc., are encapsulated under Articles 6 to 12 of UNCAT, besides the rights of victims to seek redressal of their grievances against the acts of torture are provided under Article 14 thereof.

Strikingly, Article 17 of UNCAT provides for the establishment of a Committee against Torture (CAT/ Committee) to carry out various functions, stipulated under the UNCAT, inter alia,to conduct/get conducted an inquiry into the (alleged) incidents of torture in terms of the provisions under Article 20 thereof. At the same time, Article 30 of UNCAT, inter alia, provides, “[a]ny dispute between two or more States parties concerning the interpretation or application of this Convention which cannot be settled through negotiation shall, at the request of one of them, be submitted to arbitration”. Conspicuously, the UNCAT was adopted by the UN, inter alia,under a cognizance of the fact that the, “recognition of the equal and inalienable rights of all members of the human family is the foundation of freedom, justice and peace in the world” and with a desire to make more effect, “the struggle against torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment throughout the world”.

Appositely, as per recent data[56] 171 (one hundred and seventy one) States are a party to the UNCAT and 21 (twenty one) States have yet not taken any action in furtherance of/towards the provisions contained thereunder. However, considering the indispensable nature of the provisions envisaged under the said Convention, reluctance of States to ratify and give effect to the provisions contained therein is quite difficult to comprehend and concede to. At the same time, considering that the provisions under UNCAT should have proved to be of sufficient deterrence towards the perpetuation of events of enforced disappearance, the tenacious recurrence of such savagery have made it incumbent that the provisions under the ICPPED, IACFDP, etc., are religiously adopted under the domestic laws of all countries and stringently enforced.

Pertinently, the UN General Assembly during the course of its Sixty-fifth Session, while adopting a resolution[57], expressed a deep concern regarding, “the increase in enforced or involuntary disappearances in various regions of the world, including arrest, detention and abduction, when these are part of or amount to enforced disappearances, and by the growing number of reports concerning harassment, ill-treatment and intimidation of witnesses of disappearances or relatives of persons who have disappeared”. At the same time, the General Assembly, while welcoming the fact that (till then) eighty-seven States had signed the ICPPED and twenty-one had ratified or acceded to it, urged the States that, “have not yet done so to consider signing and ratifying or acceding to the Convention as a matter of priority, as well as to consider the option provided for in Articles 31 and 32 of the Convention regarding the Committee on Enforced Disappearances”. Simultaneously, it was decided and declared August 30 as the International Day of the Victims of Enforced Disappearances, to be observed beginning in 2011. Subsequently, with a growing awareness of the evil of enforced disappearance and its consequent ramifications on families, societies, communities, countries and world at large, there have been ample implorations and resolutions across the world to exterminate this monstrosity and make world a better and a safer living place. However, despite such declarations, there is a long way ahead to the actualisation of this goal.

Notably, several countries of the world presently recognise life and liberty of every individual as inherent, basic and inalienable rights, which may be subjected to restraint and moderation only under certain exceptional circumstances. In fact, Article 6 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) specifically provides, “Every human being has the inherent right to life. This right shall be protected by law. No one shall be arbitrarily deprived of his life.” Similarly, as per Article 2of the ECHR, “Everyone’s right to life shall be protected by law. No one shall be deprived of his life intentionally save in the execution of a sentence of a court following his conviction of a crime for which this penalty is provided by law.” Further, the provisions of same/similar nature are adopted under the Constitution(s)[58] of several State(s)/countries around the globe. Clearly, these provisions aim to contain the unbridled supremacy of States and authority in power by balancing the rights of individuals and the sovereign exercise of States. At the same time, there are innumerable precedents[59] which exemplify that the deprivation of individual’s liberty must be in accordance with the principles of fairness, equity, prudence, justice, etc. and that the same cannot be dictated by arbitrariness, unfairness, unreasonableness, etc. Consequently, seen in this context, the uninhibited operation of enforced disappearances as a weapon to curtail dissent, explicitly, runs contra to several inviolable human rights and basic tenets of democracy. Evidently, subjugation of voices of disagreement with the employment of this clandestine weapon indirectly hollows out the foundation of egalitarianism and ruins innumerable families of their happiness and hope and, therefore, cannot be permitted to exist in any of its manifestations.

As someone once recollected, “Torture is banned but in two-thirds of the world’s countries it is still being committed in secret. Too many governments still allow wrongful imprisonment, murder or ‘disappearance’ to be carried out by their officials with impunity.” Indubitably, the leviathan of enforced disappearance continues to plague the world with its deadly venom, divesting families of their members and their hope for happiness and survival. Further, despite the existence of numerous international conventions, treaties, obligations, precedents, etc., acknowledging and attempting to deal with the perpetuation of this evil, reluctance of majority States of the world to adopt these provisions under their domestic laws and provide and effective enforcement mechanism thereof, has proved to be a huge impediment towards the effectuation of any positive steps towards the amelioration of the bereaved. Considering that a large number of these States profess and pride themselves as democratic and welfare States, the sheer negation of incidents of enforced disappearance is quite ironical. No doubt, though, this clandestine device may subsist as a potent weapon in the hands of administrators/rulers of nations, however, considering the obligation which the states owe to themselves and their citizens and world community alike, no State can afford to prioritise their personal motives which become a source of concern for world community. Evidently, time is ripe for the States to acknowledge their responsibility and take effective steps so that this Goliath is annihilated, once and for all. It is only then that there will be no more inconsolable recollections, akin to Mr X’s.

*Advocate. Author can be reached at abhigoyal85@gmail.com.

[1] Doris Salcedo.

[2] UN General Assembly, International Convention for the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearance, 20-12-2006, available at<https://www.refworld.org/docid/47fdfaeb0.html>(accessed on 22-9-2021).

[3] Organisation of American States (OAS), Inter-American Convention on Forced Disappearance of Persons, (9-6-1994).

[4]“‘Enforced disappearance of persons’ means the arrest, detention or abduction of persons by, or with the authorisation, support or acquiescence of, a State or a political organisation, followed by a refusal to acknowledge that deprivation of freedom or to give information on the fate or whereabouts of those persons, with the intention of removing them from the protection of the law for a prolonged period of time.”

[5] UN General Assembly, Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court (last amended 2010), 17-7-1998, ISBN No. 92-9227-227-6, available at<https://www.refworld.org/docid/3ae6b3a84.html>(accessed on 22-9-2021].

[6] UN Human Rights Council, Report of the Independent International Commission of Inquiry on the Syrian Arab Republic, 16-8-2013, A/HRC/24/46, available at<https://www.refworld.org/docid/52302c5c4.html>(accessed on23-9-2021).

[7] UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR), Fact Sheet No. 6 Rev. 3, Enforced or Involuntary Disappearances, July 2009, No. 6/Rev.3, available at<https://www.refworld.org/docid/5289da9c4.html>(accessed on23-9-2021).

[8]Refer to UN Commission on Human Rights, Report submitted by Mr Manfred Nowak, Independent Expert Charged with Examining the Existing International Criminal and Human Rights Framework for the Protection of Persons from Enforced or Involuntary Disappearances, pursuant to Para 11 of Commission Resolution 2001/46, 7-1-2002, E/CN.4/2002/71, available at<https://www.refworld.org/docid/3d6ce3c50.html>(accessed on 24-9-2021).

[9]Refer to International Military Tribunal (Nuremberg), Judgment of 1-10-1946, available at<https://www.legal-tools.org/doc/45f18e/pdf/>(accessed on24-9-2021).

[10]Refer to, UN Human Rights Council, Joint Study on Global Practices in Relation to Secret Detention in the Context of Countering Terrorism of the Special Rapporteur on the Promotion and Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms while Countering Terrorism, 19-2-2010, A/HRC/13/42, available at <https://www.refworld.org/docid/4d8720092.html>(accessed on24-9-2021).

[11]Refer to, UN Commission on Human Rights, Civil and Political Rights, Including the Questions of Disappearances and Summary Executions: Question of Enforced or Involuntary Disappearances/Note by the Secretariat, 21-12-2000, E/CN.4/2001/69, available at <https://www.refworld.org/docid/3b00f54fc.html>(accessed on25-9-2021).

[12]Refer to, United Nations Treaty Collection, International Convention for the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearance; New York, 20-12-2006, available at <https://treaties.un.org/pages/ViewDetails.aspx?src=IND&mtdsg_no=IV-16&chapter=4&clang=_en>(accessed on26-9-2021.

[13] Council of Europe: Parliamentary Assembly, Enforced Disappearances, 19-9-2005, Doc. 10679, available at <https://www.refworld.org/docid/43a97ee64.html>(accessed on 28-9-2021).

[14] UN Commission on Human Rights, Study on the Right to the Truth, Report of the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, 8-2-2006, E/CN.4/2006/91, available at <https://www.refworld.org/docid/46822b6c2.html>(accessed on 29-9-2021).

[15] Refer to General Comment on Women Affected by Enforced Disappearances Adopted by the Working Group on Enforced or Involuntary Disappearances at its Ninety-Eighth Session (31-12-2012 – 9-11-2012), A/HRC/WGEID/98/2, available at <https://documents-dds-ny.un.org/doc/UNDOC/GEN/G13/112/57/PDF/G1311257.pdf?OpenElement>(accessed on16-10-2021).

[16] Refer to UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR), Fact Sheet No. 6 Rev. 3, Enforced or Involuntary Disappearances, July 2009, No. 6/Rev.3, available at <https://www.refworld.org/docid/5289da9c4.html>(accessed on 26-9-2021).

[17]Refer to, Kirsten Anderson, How Effective is the International Convention for the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearance Likely to be in Holding Individuals Criminally Responsible for Acts of Enforced Disappearance?, available at <https://law.unimelb.edu.au/__data/assets/pdf_file/0004/1681213/Anderson.pdf>(accessed on 26-9-2021).

[18]The OAS came into being in 1948 with the signing in Bogotá, Colombia, of the Charter of the OAS, which entered into force in December 1951. The Organisation was established in order to achieve among its member state, as stipulated in Art. 1 of the Charter, “an order of peace and justice, to promote their solidarity, to strengthen their collaboration, and to defend their sovereignty, their territorial integrity, and their independence.” Today, the OAS brings together all 35 independent states of the Americas and constitutes the main political, juridical, and social governmental forum in the Hemisphere. In addition, it has granted permanent observer status to 69 States, as well as to the European Union (EU)., available at <http://www.oas.org/en/about/who_we_are.asp>(accessed on 26-9-2021).

[19]“However, if there should be a norm of a fundamental character preventing application of the stipulation contained in the previous paragraph, the period of limitation shall be equal to that which applies to the gravest crime in the domestic laws of the corresponding State party.”

[20]Refer to Case Gelman v. Uruguay, Inter-American Court of Human Rights (IACtHR), 24-2-2011, available at <https://www.refworld.org/cases,IACRTHR,4f75c1182.html>(accessed on 28-9-2021.)

[21]Case of the Serrano-Cruz Sisters v. El Salvador, Serie C No. 118, Inter-American Court of Human Rights (IACtHR), 23-11-2004, available at<https://www.refworld.org/cases,IACRTHR,4f5a06d82.html>(accessed on 29-9-2021).

[22] UN General Assembly, Declaration on the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearance: Resolution/Adopted by the General Assembly, 18-12-1992, A/RES/47/133, available at<https://www.refworld.org/docid/3b00f22030.html>(accessed  on 3-10-2021).

[23] Amnesty International, ”Between Prison and the Grave”– Enforced Disappearances in Syria,5-11-2015, MDE 24/2579/2015, available at<https://www.refworld.org/docid/563b1c3a4.html>(accessed on 3-10-2021).

[24] International Federation for Human Rights, Supporting the Future of Syria and the Region: FIDH and SCM Priorities for the Brussels II Conference (24-4-2018 to 25-4-2018), 23-4-2018, available at <https://www.refworld.org/docid/5bc83c7e4.html>(accessed on3-10-2021).

[25]Human Rights Watch, Syria: Talks Should Address “Disappeared”, 30-8-2017, available at <https://www.refworld.org/docid/59aeb7484.html>(accessed on 3-10-2021).

[26]Resolution adopted by the UN Security Council at its 7116th meeting, on 22-2-2014, available at <https://www.un.org/press/en/2014/sc11292.doc.htm>(accessed on 3-10-2021).

[27]International Federation for Human Rights, Burma/Myanmar – International Crimes Committed in Burma: The Urgent Need for a Commission of Inquiry, August 2009, n°527a, available at <https://www.refworld.org/docid/4a83c4490.html>(accessed on 3-10-2021).

[28] UN General Assembly, Situation of Human Rights in Myanmar : Resolution/Adopted by the General Assembly,26-3-2010, A/RES/64/238, available at<https://www.refworld.org/docid/4bfe30d32.html>(accessed on 3-10-2021).

[29] Human Rights Watch, Bangladesh: Alarming Rise in “Disappearances”, 27-4-2012, available at<https://www.refworld.org/docid/4fa106ca2.html>(accessed on 3-10-2021).

[30] Amnesty International, Bangladesh: Stop Enforced Disappearances, Torture and Restrictions on Freedom of Expression, 2-9-2014, ASA 13/006/2014, available at <https://www.refworld.org/docid/540d6baa4.html>(accessed on 5-10-2021).

[31]Bangladesh Legal Aid and Services Trust (BLAST) v. Bangladesh, Writ Petition No. 3806/1998, dated 7-4-2003; available at <https://www.blast.org.bd/content/judgement/55-DLR-363.pdf> (accessed on 5-10-2021).

[32] Refer to, International Federation for Human Rights, Bangladesh: Criminal Justice through the Prism of Capital Punishment and the Fight against Terrorism, 10-10-2010, available at <https://www.refworld.org/docid/4cb2ac7b2.html>(accessed on 5-10-2021).

[33]Refer to UN Human Rights Council, Report of the Working Group on Enforced or Involuntary Disappearances on Enforced Disappearances in the Context of Migration, 28-7-2017, A/HRC/36/39/Add.2, available at <https://www.refworld.org/docid/59bfb3aa4.html> (accessed on 5-10-2021).

[34]Enforced Disappearances, available at<https://www.amnesty.org/en/what-we-do/enforced-disappearances/>(accessed on 5-10-2021).

[35]Refer to Human Rights Watch, Recurring Nightmare: State Responsibility for “Disappearances” and Abductions in Sri Lanka, 6-3-2008, Vol.20, No. 2(C), available at <https://www.refworld.org/docid/47d0fab62.html>(accessed on 6-10-2021).

[36]Refer to International Convention for the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearance Act, No. 5 of 2018, available at<https://www.srilankalaw.lk/gazette/2018_pdf/05-2018_E.pdf>(accessed on 6-10-2021).

[37]Refer to International Commission of Jurists (ICJ), No More “Missing Persons”: The Criminalisation of Enforced Disappearance in South Asia, August 2017, available at <https://www.refworld.org/docid/5a212dba4.html>(accessed on 7-10-2021).

[38]Disappearances and Extrajudicial Killings of Sindhi Nationalists Continue, Urgent Appeal Case: AHRC-UAC-153-2016, 13-12-2016, available at<http://www.ahrchk.org/ruleoflawasia.net/news.php?id=AHRC-UAC-153-2016>(accessed on 5-10-2021).

[39]Refer to Bill Criminalising Enforced Disappearance Introduced in NA, The Express Tribune, 8-6-2021, available at https://tribune.com.pk/story/2304170/bill-criminalising-enforced-disappearance-introduced-in-na (accessed on 6-10-2021).

[40]Refer to,Constitution of India, Arts. 20, 21 and 22.

[41] Illustratively, Ch. V (Sections 41 till 60-A) of the Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973, available at <https://legislative.gov.in/sites/default/files/A1974-02.pdf> (accessed on 9-10-2021).

[42]Refer to Enforced Disappearances in Jammu and Kashmir, available at <https://www.europarl.europa.eu/meetdocs/2004_2009/documents/dv/droi_080716_enforceddisapinjk/DROI_080716_EnforcedDisapinJKen.pdf>(accessed on 9-10-2021).

[43] United States Department of State, US Department of State Country Report on Human Rights Practices 1993 – India, 30-1-1994, available at<https://www.refworld.org/docid/3ae6aa7f0.html>(accessed on 9-10-2021).

[44] Amnesty International, India: Break the Cycle of Impunity and Torture in Punjab, 20-1-2003, ASA 20/002/2003, available at <https://www.refworld.org/docid/3f152a1f4.html> (accessed on 9-10-2021).

[45] Human Rights Watch, Protecting the Killers: A Policy of Impunity in Punjab, India, 18-10-2017, Vol. 19, No. 14(C), available at<https://www.refworld.org/docid/471856c82.html>(accessed on 9-10-2021).

[46]Paramjit Kaur v. State of Punjab, (1999) 2 SCC 141.

[47]Prithipal Singh v. State of Punjab, (2012) 1 SCC 10.

[48]Protection of Human Rights Act, 1993.

[49]Kanu Sanyal v. Distt. Magistrate, Darjeeling, (1973) 2 SCC 674.

[50](2011) 10 SCC 781, 786.

[51]“India’s history is marred with violations of human rights and enforced disappearances. A Human Rights Watch Report in 2007 noted the revelation of 6000 secret cremations by the police in just one of the erstwhile districts of Punjab. A report by Association of the Parents of Disappeared Persons indicated that more than 8000 people have gone missing under suspicious circumstances in Jammu and Kashmir between 1989 and 2008. As regularly reported, the incidents are not limited to disturbed areas but affect people of all ages and professions in the States of Andhra Pradesh, Gujarat, Maharashtra, Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, Rajasthan and Odisha. It is necessary to enable legislation that prevents future enforced disappearances, and protects the citizens from such crimes.”Refer to, Prevention of Enforced Disappearance Bill, 2018, available at (accessed on 10-10-2021).

[52]Refer to Council of Europe: Commissioner for Human Rights, Missing Persons and Victims of Enforced Disappearance in Europe, March 2016, available at <https://www.refworld.org/docid/572233704.html > (accessed on 10-10-2021).

[53] UNHRC’s Commission of Inquiry was established pursuant to the 22nd Session of the United Nations Human Rights Council on 21-3-2013 to investigate the systematic, widespread and grave violations of human rights in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea. Refer to A/HRC/RES/22/13, available at <https://www.securitycouncilreport.org/atf/cf/%7B65BFCF9B-6D27-4E9C-8CD3-CF6E4FF96FF9%7D/a_hrc_res_22_13.pdf>(accessed on 10-10-2021).

[54] UN Human Rights Council, Report of the Detailed Findings of the Commission of Inquiry on Human Rights in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, 7-2-2014, A/HRC/25/CRP.1, available at <https://www.refworld.org/docid/530314234.html>(accessed on 10-10-2021).

[55]UN General Assembly, Convention Against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment, 10-12-1984, United Nations, Treaty Series, Vol. 1465, p. 85, available at <https://www.refworld.org/docid/3ae6b3a94.html>(accessed on 16-10-2016).

[56]Refer to United Nations Human Rights, Status of Ratification Interactive Dashboard, available at <https://indicators.ohchr.org/>(accessed on16-10-2021).

[57] Resolution adopted by the General Assembly on 21-12-2010, A/RES/65/209, available at <https://undocs.org/A/RES/65/209>(accessed on16-10-2021).

[58]Refer to Constitution of India, Art. 21 which provides, “No person shall be deprived of his life or personal liberty except according to procedure established by law.”

[59]Refer to the decision of Indian Supreme Court in Maneka Gandhi v. Union of India, (1978) 1 SCC 248.

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