Forced Disappearance: Shattering Lives, Demanding Accountability

July 10, 2023
Forced Disappearance: Shattering Lives, Demanding Accountability

Forced disappearance, a grave violation of human rights, involves the abduction of individuals by state officials or their agents without any legal process. These victims are taken away against their will, and the authorities refuse to acknowledge their abduction or reveal their fate. This sinister practice has been employed by governments in various countries, including Honduras, Chile, the Philippines, El Salvador, Sri Lanka, and Syria, often targeting individuals perceived as political opponents. 

The Center for Justice and Accountability (CJA) is committed to exposing and addressing forced disappearances, aiming to deter such crimes and hold the perpetrators accountable. Through their litigation efforts, CJA shines a light on this widespread human rights abuse and seeks justice for the victims. One such case involves Zenaida Vasquez, whose brother was forcibly disappeared in Honduras during the 1980s. While recovering her brother's remains may be beyond reach, she recognizes the importance of holding high-ranking officials responsible to challenge the prevailing culture of impunity and discourage future crimes.

In addition to their legal battles, CJA supports local initiatives in countries transitioning from years of abuse, assisting in addressing the issue of forced disappearances. For instance, in Colombia, as part of the peace accords, efforts are underway to seek clarity, justice, and accountability for the estimated 28,000 people who disappeared during the 50-year internal conflict involving paramilitary and guerrilla groups. Collaborating with civil society organizations in Colombia, CJA strives to promote accountability for these disappearances.

Similarly, in Sri Lanka, where tens of thousands of individuals disappeared during the brutal civil war, civil society has demanded answers from the government regarding their whereabouts. Sri Lanka ranks second globally, after Iraq, in terms of the number of disappeared people, according to the United Nations. CJA has actively engaged with the relatives of victims in Sri Lanka, offering support and solidarity in their pursuit of truth and justice.

To complement their litigation and support efforts, CJA engages in policy advocacy, aiming to expand the Torture Victim Protection Act to include a civil remedy for forced disappearances. By seeking legislative changes, CJA aims to strengthen the legal framework and provide avenues for accountability and redress for the victims and their families.

Addressing forced disappearances poses several challenges. The culture of impunity, deeply rooted in some countries, obstructs efforts to hold perpetrators accountable. The lack of political will and cooperation from governments, as well as the difficulty in obtaining evidence and witness testimonies, further complicates the pursuit of justice. Nonetheless, individuals and communities can contribute to stopping these violations by supporting organizations like CJA, raising awareness, and advocating for legal reforms and international cooperation.

Forced disappearances represent a dark chapter in human history, inflicting immeasurable suffering on victims and their loved ones. It is our collective responsibility to expose the truth, demand accountability, and work towards a future where no person is subjected to this grave violation of their rights.


  1. Center for Justice and Accountability (CJA) - Official Website:
  2. Human Rights Watch - Forced Disappearance:
  3. United Nations Human Rights - Enforced Disappearances:
  4. Amnesty International - Enforced Disappearances: