Crisis of Disappearances

MexicoPresident Enrique Peña Nieto of Mexico, who took office in December 2012, has inherited one of the worst crises of “disappearances” in Latin America’s history.

Human Rights Watch says it has documented 249 cases of people who were taken away, their fate unknown, between 2006 and 2012. In 149 of them, it found compelling evidence that state agents participated in the disappearances, sometimes collaborating with drug cartels that extorted payments from the victims’ families.

But these cases represent only a fraction of reported disappearances in Mexico in recent years, as a leaked government-compiled provisional list puts the number of people disappeared or reported missing since 2006 at more than 25,000.

Law enforcement rarely investigates these cases in a thorough or timely manner. Their inept or altogether absent efforts to find the victims add to the suffering of families, for whom not knowing what happened to their loved ones causes perpetual anguish.

“Mexico’s security forces have participated in widespread enforced disappearances,” the rights group says in a 176-page report – ‘Mexico’s Disappeared: The Enduring Cost of a Crisis Ignored’. “Virtually none of the victims have been found or those responsible brought to justice, exacerbating the suffering of families of the disappeared.”

So, has President Peña Nieto inherited one of worst crises of disappearances in the history of Latin America? José Miguel Vivanco, a director at Human Rights Watch replies in affirmation: “While his administration has announced some important measures to assist victims, it has yet to take the steps necessary to ensure that those responsible for these horrific crimes are brought to justice.”

Human Rights Watch found evidence that members of all branches of the security forces carried out enforced disappearances – the Army, the Navy, and the federal and local police.

But is it the case of Mexico alone that prosecutors and law enforcement officials consistently fail to search thoroughly and promptly for people reported missing or to investigate those responsible for the disappearances?

Missing Person's WhereaboutsGreater Voice feels that the officials, too often, blame the victims and tell their families it is their responsibility to investigate and suffer, unless the missing is connected to someone very very high-up or it happens to be their dog. Otherwise there is inept or altogether absent investigations. For whom not knowing what happened to their loved ones, is a source of perpetual anguish! Making matters worse, families of the disappeared face all sorts of eyeballs and are subjected to weird stories going around about them.

Reporting Missing PersonThe least we can do is to create –

  • A comprehensive and accurate national databases of the disappeared and of unidentified human remains.
  • Ensure that alleged human rights violations committed by State are investigated and prosecuted.
  • End illegal detentions by the authorities.


Missing“Each year about 1,000 people are reported missing to Kolkata Police. For their family and friends the wait for contact or information can be agonizing. The good news however is that the Kolkata Police Missing Persons Unit is here to help find your loved one. Most of the missing persons reported are located, with more than half simply failing to tell their families where they are. Some people deliberately want to stay ‘lost’ and a small number are victims of foul play.”

But then many Indian States do not have a proper system to manage information on missing persons. Even the national data record needs to be be made more user friendly and updated fast.

Greater Voice talked to several police officials discussing the issue and it can be concluded that there is need to reduce the incidence of missing persons and to educate our communities about this significant issue. First we have to understand as to why do people go missing! We need to find reasons that may be varied – from going missing voluntary and involuntary, as also the reasons that may include anxiety and depression, misadventure, homelessness, dementia, domestic violence, becoming a victim of crime, drugs/alcohol abuse, kidnapping, abduction, atrocity by State, family dysfunction and conflict, miscommunication, issues associated with puberty and peer pressure, mental health issues, child abuse/neglect and poor coping skills.

Do not forget that every day thousands of people are reported missing in our country and many other countries. And you will not budge unless you are affected. Isn’t it? Talk to your legislators and concerned officials to create a district record of missing persons, that in turn should be linked to your State’s database and to the national database. If we can do this, any missing person can be traced within hours. Choice is yours.

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