PROMIS Project commemorates migrants in West-Africa on International Day of Victims of Enforced or Involuntary Disappearances


DAKAR, BANJUL   The increasingly precarious movements of migrants undertaking long, perilous journeys, associated with often increasingly rigid migratory policies, have created a situation that exposes them to heightened risks of becoming victims of human rights violations, including enforced disappearances.

Enforced disappearance is defined by three cumulative elements: (1) Deprivation of liberty against the will of the person; (2) Involvement of government officials, at least by acquiescence; and (3) Refusal to acknowledge the deprivation of liberty or concealment of the fate or whereabouts of the disappeared person.

On 21 December 2010, in resolution 65/209, the UN General Assembly expressed its deep concern about the increase in enforced or involuntary disappearances in various regions of the world and declared 30th August the International Day of the Victims of Enforced Disappearances.

This year, as part of the celebration of International Day of the Victims of Enforced Disappearances, and in the context of PROMIS project, OHCHR WARO and UNODC ROSEN in collaboration with the African Network against Extrajudicial Killings and Enforced Disappearances (ANEKED), launched an 8 days social media campaign from 23-30 August to raise awareness on enforced disappearances in the context of migration in West Africa.

The campaign features a video interview with Ms. Houria Es-Slami, Member of the Working Group on Enforced and Involuntary Disappearances; a documentary entitled “I Cannot Bury My Father” by Nana-Jo from ANEKED;  and visual artworks released on social media in French, English and Wolof.


UN Working Group on Enforced or Involuntary Disappearances (WGEID) committed to the affected ones

Ms. Houria Es-Slami, a member of the WGEID, acknowledged the relevance of this day: “The International Day of the Victims of Enforced or Involuntary Disappearances is a very important day, first of all it is a day to take the opportunity to pay tribute to the victims of enforced disappearances and to highlight the ongoing suffering of families who do not know whereabouts of their loved ones. It is also an opportunity to remind States of their commitment to investigate cases, obligations contained in the Declaration for the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearance”

One of the tasks of the UN Working Group on Enforced or Involuntary Disappearances (WGEID) is to assist families in determining the fate or whereabouts of their family members who are reportedly missing.

In that capacity, the Working Group can serve as a channel of communication between family members of victims of enforced disappearance and other sources reporting cases of disappearances, and the Governments concerned.

Ms. Es-Slami also explained that irregular migration from West and Central Africa towards northern Africa and the European continent through several migratory routes has substantially increased in recent years. “In their country of origin, transit or destination, migrants are exposed to various human rights abuses and particularly vulnerable to enforced disappearance all along the way. Some of those at risk are being placed in illegal places of detention, being victims of illegal trafficking, gender-based violence, terrorist actions against them and many other ways to deprive themselves from their rights and protection”.



The voice of the disappeared and their families brought to the spotlight

On 13th January 2020, the African Network against Extrajudicial Killings and Enforced Disappearances (ANEKED) launched a documentary that looks back at the massacre of 56 West African migrants in The Gambia, as a reminder that the disappeared and their relatives are still waiting for justice.

“The forced disappearance of my father has had devastating consequences for my family. I call on the authorities to do the right thing and bring perpetrators to justice,” said 28-year-old, Isaac Ghanaian, the son of Peter Mensah, one of the migrants that has forcibly disappeared since 2005 in The Gambia.

ANEKED is an organization led by women African human rights activists that campaign against forced disappearances and summary executions and advocates for accountability and justice.

After 15 years, impunity and lack of transparency surrounding the enforced disappearance of the West African migrants still prevails. The families left behind continue their search for truth and justice. We urge the competent authorities to fulfill their international obligations and ensure those responsible are held to account,” shared Nana-Jo N’dow Director of the film and Executive Director of ANEKED.

Through this campaign, the PROMIS Project and ANEKED aim to actively promote respect for human rights, recognizing that migrants fall victims of enforced disappearances. All victims of enforced disappearance have the right to obtain justice. Relatives of the disappeared have the right to know the full and complete truth about their loved ones and obtain reparations. Impunity for past disappearances may trigger further violations in the future.

We all need to #StandUp4HumanRights and ensure #protection4migrants!

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The PROMIS project is a joint initiative between the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) and the UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) that aims to strengthen the capacities of West African states to develop a human rights-based response to smuggling of migrants and to effectively respond to human rights violations related to irregular migration. The project implementation focuses on Mali, Niger, Senegal, The Gambia, and Cote d’Ivoire with further expansion to other West African countries.