The Latin-American Flavor of Enforced Disappearances


Ariel E. Dulitzky

19 Chicago Journal of International Law 423


Enforced disappearances occur when persons are deprived of their liberty by state officials, organized groups, or private individuals acting on behalf of, or with the support, direct or indirect, consent, or acquiescence of the government. The deprivation of liberty is followed by a refusal to disclose the fate or whereabouts of the persons concerned or a refusal to acknowledge the deprivation of their liberty. Consequently, such persons are placed outside the protection of the law. As such, the crime and the human rights violation of enforced disappearance comprise many different types of state repression. Given this multiplicity of scenarios in which enforced disappearances take place, some insist on the danger of over-using the term enforced disappearance, highlighting the need for a definition that separates the Latin American “true” cases of disappearance from those in which the term corresponds to a popular misuse. This Article describes this strong connection between enforced disappearances and Latin America.

The framework elaborated in the cases emanating from Latin American countries grounded the evolution of the very concept of enforced disappearance and the main concerns surrounding those disappearances. Additionally, Latin America is a space where the use of enforced disappearances was (and still is in some areas) widespread, but also a place which developed the most effective responses to overcome them. The second part of the Article presents Latin America as an innovator of human rights norms. As such, the Article challenges traditional understandings of the evolution of human rights. At the same time, the Latin American story shows the need to avoid a one-size-fits-all approach. This Article proposes instead to understand the Latin American influence on enforced disappearances as a normative *424 transnational and international framework that could operate under diverse cultural and political logics, and that is necessarily conditioned by local particularities and meanings.

Full Citation

Ariel E. Dulitzky, The Latin-American Flavor of Enforced Disappearances, 19 Chicago Journal of International Law 423 (Winter 2019).