The day of the disappeared

The candle burns not for us, but for all those whom we failed to rescue from prison, who were shot on the way to prison, who were tortured, who were kidnapped, who "disappeared". That's what the candle is for. – Peter Benenson

It wasn’t until I started working at Amnesty that I really thought about the word disappeared. I had not known it to be both a noun “the disappeared” and a verb, implying that someone had been “disappeared” by a person or people. The concept is an ominous one. A person vanishes, plucked from their life, leaving their families trapped in a constant state of worry and uncertainty. They don’t know whether to plead, mourn, search, wait or despair – all too often they do all of those.

Each year, the 30 August marks the ‘International Day of the Disappeared’, which highlights the fate of the thousands of people who have been subjected to enforced disappearances and the suffering of their families, left without them, or knowledge of their fate.

An enforced disappearance takes place when a person is arrested, detained or abducted by the state or agents acting for the state, who then deny that the person is being held or conceal their whereabouts, placing them outside the protection of the law.

As Peter Benenson, the founder of Amnesty International said, it was the plight of the disappeared people who were at the heart of the initial reason for starting the movement. It is so that the families left behind are not a solitary voice calling for answers, but are joined by a chorus – demanding an explanation.

That is still central to Amnesty’s work today.  Ebrima B. Manneh is a journalist from Gambia, who was arrested by plainclothes police at the offices of the Daily Observer newspaper in July 2006. He has never been charged or tried and his whereabouts have never been revealed.

On the 5th anniversary of his disappearance, his mother, Sula Ceesay, said:

“I am with trauma and pain because of my son’s disappearance. I am having sleepless nights and since he disappeared, my family do not know happiness”


You can call for his release here.


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Our blogs are written by Amnesty International staff, volunteers and other interested individuals, to encourage debate around human rights issues. They do not necessarily represent the views of Amnesty International.
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