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International Day of the Victims of Enforced Disappearances

By Sandra Ríos

The General Assembly of the United Nations decided in 2010 to declare International Day of the Victims of Enforced Disappearances on August 30. The UN was expressing its concern at the increase in enforced disappearance cases in various regions of the world through arrests and kidnappings and the growing number of reports of harassment, abuse, and intimidation of witnesses of disappearances or relatives of persons who had disappeared.

In this context such cases had been widespread in Mexico and most of them went unpunished. “The serious case of the 43 students who disappeared in September 2014 in the state of Guerrero illustrates the serious challenges facing Mexico in prevention, investigation, and punishment of enforced disappearances and missing persons search,” said the Committee on Enforced Disappearances of the UN.

The definition provided by Amnesty International and other expert organizations on the subject indicate that enforced disappearance occurs when an individual is arrested or abducted by the state or by any person or agency that acts on their behalf and then denies that arrest. In a survey conducted by the Parametría agency, in which they asked citizens about who they thought could be accused of enforced disappearance, more than 90 percent said the drug cartels and organized crime. Seven percent said that those who oppose or criticize the government are more likely to be missing, and six percent said that journalists are the most vulnerable.

“The suffering of the disappearance of your own child is indescribable,” said Felipe de la Cruz, the father of a student from Ayotzinapa (the city where the 43 missing students are from). His son, Ángel Leri de la Cruz, survived the attack and witnessed the horror suffered by families. Today he is a spokesman for the cause.

The Iguala disappearances have become the biggest national scandal since the slaughter of Tlatelolco in 1968. On October 2 of that year the army suppressed a demonstration in Mexico City, killing hundreds of students. The repression and fear managed to silence the voices of protest. But now the situation is very different. Today the voices cannot be silenced since they gather at social, political, and cultural movements to denounce such cases.

Meanwhile, Rainer Huhle, member of the UN Committee and rapporteur on the case in Mexico, says the concern is “the impunity, when you are talking about thousands of cases of enforced disappearance.”


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