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On 21 December 2010, by its resolution 65/209 the UN General Assembly expressed its deep concern about the increase in enforced or involuntary disappearances in various regions of the world. By the same resolution the Assembly adopted the International Convention for Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearance, and decided to declare 30 August the International Day of the Victims of Enforced Disappearances. Enforced disappearance is defined 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. Involuntary disappearances have been used by governments and paramilitary groups to intimidate whole populations. They are usually aimed at community leaders who inspire and/or organize the people to improve their lives or to demand respect for their rights and dignity as human beings. Those who are arrested or detained have a right to know the specific charges against them. They also have a right to a timely legal process. While in custody, they have a right to be treated with at least basic respect for their human dignity and their families have a right to know where they are being held, on what charges and how they can assist them with legal help. Many of the disappeared are never seen again and the people responsible for their disappearances are never identified or brought to justice. Enforced or involuntary disappearance is a violation of human rights and dignity.

 

Let us pray for all victims of forced disappearances, for their families and for their communities. Let us also pray for government leaders that they will turn away from involuntary disappearances that terrorize and intimidate their people. Instead, may all leaders see themselves as servants of the people, listen to their voices and respond to them as best they can for the common good. We pray also for those who carry out forced abductions and secret arrests on behalf of others. May their hearts be converted and may they be touched by the plight of their brothers and sisters and thus recover their own humanity.