It's a day to draw attention to the fate of individuals imprisoned in places unknown to their relatives or legal representatives.
Speakers: Marianne Pecassou, from the International Committee for the Red Cross in Geneva; Sam Zarifi, the International Commission of Jurists', regional director for Asia
SABAPATHY: In 2006 the United Nations adopted a declaration on the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearance. So far, 55 countries have signed a declaration with only 14 ratifying it.
It's estimated some 30 countries practise secret imprisonment and the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights has registered some 46,000 cases of people who have disappeared under unknown circumstances.
So August 30th is a day set aside to acknowledge the anguish of the families of the disappeared and to keep the victims visible says Marianne Pecassou, from the International Committee for the Red Cross in Geneva.
PECASSOU: We try to give some visibility to the fact that thousands of families live with this uncertainty and need their relatives that are missing to be more visible and not disappear completely.
SABAPATHY: An enforced disappearance removes an individual from the protection of the law and violates many of their rights guaranteed under the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.
Sam Zarifi, the International Commission of Jurists', regional director for Asia says, this is one of the worst kind of human rights abuse.
ZARIFI: The state has abducted someone, but the state denies holding that person and will not follow on its obligation to ensure that a person who has been detained is charged and given a proper trial.
SABAPATHY: The 2001 US-led war on terror, has been used by many countries as an excuse to detain in undisclosed places those they consider as terrorists or people seen as a threat to national security.
Sam Zarifi says, while a country has an obligation to protect its citizens from acts of violence and insurgency, it cannot act outside the law.
ZARIFI: The government, if it is detaining someone, it needs to charge them with a crime and then put them on trial, and a trial that works and we've seen this problem, of course, the most blatant example of it is perhaps the United States treatment of detainees in Guantanamo Bay, where they were not provided with an adequate legal protection and that's clearly a violation of international law. So the excuse that an enforced disappearance is justified sometimes by counter-insurgency or counter-terrorism is simply not acceptable and in our experience simply not true.
SABAPATHY: Sam Zarifi believes a country involved in the act of secret imprisonment is admitting that its legal process is not working effectively.
ZARIFI: This doesn't mean that everybody who is subjected to enforced disappearance is innocent. In fact, we know, including in Pakistan, that several of the prominent cases of enforced disappearances face credible allegations of having engaged in acts of terrorism or targeting of civilians. The problem is that when those people are subjected to enforced disappearance, they're never brought to trial, so we don't know what the evidence against them is, we can't convict them. The victims of their suspected activity will never hear the truth and will never get justice. So enforced disappearances subverts and erodes the entire justice process.
SABAPATHY: The people who have been secretly imprisoned are not the only victims. Their families are often left to deal with the social and psychological impact of their disappearances says Marianne Pecassou.
PECASSOU: The families have to live with the uncertainty of not knowing what has happened to their beloved ones and they have to deal also with very difficult socio-economic situation, because often the person who disappear was the breadwinner; legal and administrative struggles, because they inherit debt of the person who disappear; or the person who disappear doesn't have a clear legal status and therefore the situation of the family is a little blurred for the children, for the possibility for the families to get, for instance, social and financial benefit is complicated.
SAPABATY: The ICRC says countries need to better respond to the families of the missing whose main concern is what has happened to their vanished loved ones.