August 30: International Day of the Victims of Forced Disappearances

By Ruben Tzanoff

Crimes against humanity must not be forgotten. They must not remain unpunished, either. They require punishment for those responsible and reaffirm the dilemma of socialism or barbarism.

The commemoration was established by the United Nations General Assembly through Resolution 65/209 (December 21, 2010). The forced disappearance of persons is not a new or isolated event. It is a criminal practice concealed by the legal political power, whose victims are opponents, anti-imperialists, revolutionaries, left-wing, labor union or human rights activists, their relatives, minority communities or communities oppressed by racial, sexual or religious reasons. Non-activists are not exempt either, when the objective of power is to provoke exemplary actions to instill terror in the population: each “NN” is marked by fire as an alert of what can happen to anyone. State terrorism includes arbitrary detentions, clandestine detention centers, torture and all kinds of degradations to human rights, which can culminate in physical disappearance.

When disappearances are not caused by the official police and army, they are carried out by armed paramilitary gangs, financed, guided and supported by political power. The bourgeois state is a specialist in resorting to these services when they consider it appropriate, both during dictatorial regimes or during wars as well as under “democracy”. When the State is not the institution that drives the atrocities, it does not care much to investigate thoroughly, let alone when what happens serves its interests or can cause setbacks. Formally, human rights are recognized and crimes against humanity are condemned. But in reality, people continue to disappear and, in the vast majority of cases, injustice and impunity persist in their cases. When they are investigated and punished, it is due to the protest of family and friends, the insistence of the mobilization and the sustained claim of different social sectors and human rights defenders.

The Nazi and fascist regimes specialized in provoking crimes against humanity in Europe, which used to end with the mass or private extermination of people or their disappearance. During the Spanish Civil War and the subsequent repression of the dictatorship, it is estimated that more than 140 thousand people disappeared. The military and genocidal dictatorship of Argentina, established by the 1976 military coup, caused the disappearance of 30,000 people, including 100 detained-disappeared of the PST, the predecessor of the MST. Years passed, and on September 18, 2006, Jorge Julio López disappeared – during Néstor Kirchner’s government (Frente para la Victoria) – and, now, the young Facundo Astudillo Castro has disappeared, after having been detained by the police of the province of Buenos Aires. Aires. The Chilean people during the dictatorship of Augusto Pinochet and the Uruguayans suffered this evil as well.

There are thousands of disappearances to be counted in Peru, Guatemala, El Salvador and Colombia. In Mexico there have been more than 40 thousand disappeared people during the last 12 years. It is worth remembering the case of the 43 Ayotzinapa students of whom there have been no traces since 2014. Under the command of the Communist Party bureaucracy, there is no way of knowing how many people are forcibly disappeared in China. The brutality there reaches such an extreme that there is a National Supervision Commission (NSC), with the power to hold suspects in isolation for six months, without the right to any type of defense and without notifying their families. In Iraq, more than 250 thousand people disappeared during the US invasion and in Syria more than 82 thousand people have disappeared.

The Saudi Arabian monarchy is behind the physical disappearance of opposition journalist Jamal Khashoggi, last seen on October 2, 2018, after entering the Saudi consulate in Istanbul. Sri Lanka and Zimbabwe are other countries with the highest number of disappearances. As reported in, “More than 400 Saharawi families haven’t had news of their missing relatives as a result of their direct kidnapping by the Spanish authorities (Sidi Mohamed Basiri case, June 18, 1970), with its complacency (cases of forced disappearances from October 31, 1975 to February 26, 1976) and under its legal responsibility for all subsequent cases.” “Although direct material responsibility is in the hands of the Moroccan occupation authorities, Spain continues to be legally liable as a “de jure” power in the territory of Western Sahara.”

The list can be extended much more, the truth is that beyond the lack of strictly precise data, we are in presence of a world scourge without borders, that involves power, its partners and others under its protection. Sometimes disappearance is in itself an objective, other times it is the corollary of previous human rights abuses. For this reason, we also condemn the repression, torture and imprisonment of the peoples fighting in Algeria, Lebanon, Turkey, Russia and Belarus, as eventual preludes to the horror of disappearance.

Each disappearance is a sign of the little value that is attributed to the lives of people in the dominant imperialist capitalist system worldwide. The organization, the mobilization, the struggle and the transparent investigation show the way to putting an end to impunity, and to those materially and politically responsible for these aberrant acts being punished. The International Socialist League raises high the banners of respect for human rights and the punishment of crimes against humanity. We salute the friends, family members and comrades of those who have been forcibly disappeared around the world and those who unquestionably continue to fight for their appearance, the clarification of their situation and the punishment of their murderers.

At the same time, it is necessary to fight for a in depth solution that moves the world away from capitalist barbarism, building a different society, where life is worth more than profits, tolerant of others, where differences of any kind are not resolved through violence, that is, socialism with democracy.