As early as 1980 the United Nations Commission on Human Rights constituted a working group to address the problems arising from missing and disappeared persons. Twenty six years later, the Convention for the Protection of all Persons from Enforced Disappearances was adopted by the UN General Assembly on 20 December 2006. It is the first universally binding treaty that defines enforced disappearance as a human rights violation and prohibits it. The convention entered into force on 23 December 2010.
Enforced disappearance is defined as the arrest, detention, abduction or any other form of deprivation of liberty by agents of the State or by persons or groups of persons acting with the authorization, support or acquiescence of the State, followed by a refusal to acknowledge the deprivation of liberty or by concealment of the fate or whereabouts of the disappeared person, which place such a person outside the protection of the law. In order to prohibit enforced disappearance, the convention has four main aspects: combating impunity, prevention, rights of victims and enforcement.
The convention places an obligation on states to investigate acts of enforced disappearance and to bring those responsible to justice. In order to reduce the likelihood that people will go missing, it contains other obligations of a preventive measure: people deprived of their liberty have a right to be kept in an official place, to be registered and to communicate with their family and counsel. The convention also recognizes the right of families to know the truth regarding the circumstances and fate of the disappeared person, as well as the right of victims to reparation for the wrong that was done to them. The convention establishes an international committee of ten independent experts to monitor the implementation of the rights and obligations agreed upon by States.