FEDEFAM – Fighting Against Forced Disappearances

Linked with our presentation of Guadalupe Mejía Delgado – El Salvador.

Fighting Against Forced Disappearances in Latin America. (in espagnol here).

A forced disappearance consists of a kidnapping, carried out by agents of the State or organized groups of private individuals who act with State support or tolerance, in which the victim “disappears”. Authorities neither accept responsibility for the deed, nor account for the whereabouts of the victim. Petitions of habeas corpus or “amparo”- legal mechanisms designated to safeguard the liberty and integrity of citizens-are ineffective, and the kidnappers remain anonymous.

The objective of forced disappearance is not simply the victim’s capture and subsequent maltreatment, which often occurs in the absence of legal guarantees. Because of the anonymity of the captors, and subsequent impunity, it also creates a state of uncertainty and terror both in the family of the victim and in society as a whole. Uncertainty exists because people do not know what to do or where to turn. From the first moment, relatives have doubts about the victim’s actual fate and the benefits of searching for their loved one. Terror is caused by the unknown yet undoubtedly terrible fate of the victim, and the realization that anyone can be subjected to a forced disappearance and any motive may be used to justify the disappearance. A forced disappearance violates a series of fundamental human rights, including: the right to liberty and security of the person, the right to recognition everywhere as a person before the law, the right to legal defense, and the right not to be subjected to torture. In addition, forced disappearance constitutes a grave threat to the right to life.

Forced disappearance paralyzes opposition activities by individuals as well as by society. The victim of forced disappearance is neither a simple political prisoner nor–as the abductors would like him/her to be considered–a dead person, although many times their corpses are later found.

GOALS OF FEDEFAM: The latin American Federation of Associations for Relatives of the Detained-Disappeared (FEDEFAM) is a nongovernmental organization formed by associations of relatives of the disappeared in countries of Latin America and the Caribbean which have or are currently practicing forced disappearance. FEDEFAM is a non-profit humanitarian organization, independent of all political or religious doctrines and institutions.

Objectives: To rescue alive the victims of forced disappearance from clandestine detention centers and to restore the children of parents subjected to forced disappearance to their families of origin.

To demand the investigation of all cases of forced disappearance and the judgment and sanction of those responsible for the crime.

To promote national and international legal norms which, classifying forced disappearance as a Crime Against Humanity, constitute methods of obtaining justice and of preventing forced disappearance.

FEDEFAM was founded in January of 1981 in San José, Costa Rica, and was formalized at the Federation’s second Congress in Caracas, Venezuela, in November of 1981. FEDEFAM has Consultative Status (Category II) with the United Nations Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC). The Federation’s work depends on the efforts of its Association members and the dedicated support of individuals and organizations in Latin America and abroad. (Read all this and more on english page of desaparecidos).

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