The International Day of the Victims of Enforced Disappearances, also called the Day of Missing Persons, was established by a decision of the United Nations General Assembly in 2010 to draw attention to the pressing problem of increased cases of enforced or involuntary disappearances in different parts of the world and the growing number of reports of harassment, cruel treatment and intimidation faced by witnesses of disappearances and relatives of missing persons.
Earlier, in 1992, as a basic set of principles for all states, a Declaration on the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearances (hereinafter – the Declaration) was developed. Since 2006, the International Convention for the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearance has been open for signature, ratification and accession. The United Nations Working Group on Enforced or Involuntary Disappearances, the International Committee of the Red Cross, and several other international and national organizations are involved in monitoring the situation and protecting the victims.
According to the Declaration, an enforced disappearance occurs when persons are arrested, detained or abducted against their will or otherwise deprived of their liberty by officials of different branches or levels of Government, or by organized groups, or private individuals acting on behalf of, or with the support, direct or indirect, consent or acquiescence of the Government, followed by a refusal to disclose the fate or whereabouts of the persons concerned or a refusal to acknowledge the deprivation of their liberty, which places such persons outside the protection of the law.”
Enforced disappearances create conditions for the violation of human rights: the right to life; the right to liberty and security of person; the right not to be subjected to torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment; individual rights; recognition of legal personality; right to a fair trial and to judicial guarantees; rights to an effective remedy, including redress and compensation; the right to know the truth about the circumstances of the disappearance. Abductions, as a rule, also entail violations of various economic, social and cultural rights: the right to health; the right to adequate standard of living; the right to protect and assist the family; the right to education and more.
The coup d’état that took place in Ukraine in 2014 has led to a significant escalation of violence. Violations of human rights and freedoms have become a usual practice; perpetrators go unpunished and are even encouraged by representatives of the regime. Despite the fact that in 2015 Ukraine ratified the International Convention for the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearance, national legislation was never brought into conformity with it. This is one of the reasons why abduction became a major problem among other violations of human rights and freedoms in the country. Since the beginning of the conflict, enforced disappearances have been a usual practice of Ukrainian security forces, not only by voluntary armed groups, which are mainly staffed from activists of right-wing radical groups, but also by the Security Service of Ukraine.
International and national human rights organizations document numerous facts of violations of this nature, regularly reporting them in their reports. Thus, the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights in its Report on the situation of human rights in Ukraine for the period from February 16 to May 15, 2019 expressed concern that “the SBU arbitrarily detain, torture, ill-treat and intimidate individuals, including in unofficial places of detention, in order to obtain information, pressure them to confess or cooperate.”
Evidence of involuntary victims of arbitrariness by Ukrainian security forces, thanks to the efforts of human rights defenders and media professionals, increasingly go public. This causes public stir and contributes to the suppression of unlawful activities related to enforced and involuntary disappearances, as well as the prosecution of witnesses of disappearances and relatives of missing persons.
A significant contribution to the struggle against these unacceptable and inhuman arbitrary practices of the Ukrainian authorities is made by the Human Rights Ombudsman in the Donetsk People’s Republic. Thanks to the activities carried out, the facts of enforced disappearances are duly documented and brought to the attention of international human rights organizations. All available means are used to locate and release the detainees. Work is underway to organize the search for missing persons during the conflict in Donbass.
In her statements, Daria Morozova insists on the inadmissibility of violating international law and the obligations undertaken by Ukraine by ratifying international treaties, including the International Convention for the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearances. The international community needs to pay attention to this problem in order to prevent the deterioration of the social and humanitarian situation in the region, as well as further systematic infringement of human rights and freedoms.