An Innovative Response to Disappearances: Non-Judicial Search Mechanisms in Latin America and Asia

Cath Collins (Editor)

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Enforced disappearance, which has been used as a tool of repression in a range of settings worldwide, is both a grave human rights violation and, in some circumstances, a crime against humanity. The search for those who have been disappeared –whether forcibly according to international human rights law or through other modalities of disappearance—is, therefore, a crucial State obligation, and searching for the disappeared, and providing associated justice, reparations, and reforms, has become an important dimension of many transitional justice processes.
Several States have created specialized bodies to undertake search for people disappeared and/or forcibly disappeared in contexts of past political violence, or due also to ongoing widespread violence, some of it rooted in macrocriminality. Given the importance of such initiatives, as well as the unique challenges they face, these search bodies potentially have much to gain from exchanges of information and the sharing of best practices, which could help them to be more effective and have greater impact. To date, although some search entities in Latin America have managed to establish interconnections, the rich potential for sharing and exchange between Latin America and Asia remains largely untapped. The report presented here, ‘An Innovative Response to Disappearances: Non-Judicial Search Mechanisms in Latin America and Asia’, therefore considers various non-judicial State search institutions from each of those two regions, discussing their structures and mandates, and the challenges they face.
This research report presents information about the structure and functions of existing State-led mechanisms to search for disappeared persons in four countries in Latin America: Mexico, El Salvador, Peru, and Colombia; and four countries in Asia: Indonesia, Timor-Leste, Sri Lanka, and Nepal. It also provides information about the search for the disappeared in Guatemala and the former Yugoslavia (Bosnia and Herzegovina, Serbia, and Kosovo), where no official State-led mechanisms currently exist. The report draws on analysis of these examples to present lessons and recommendations as to how State search mechanisms can better promote the search for victims of disappearance and serve the needs of victims’ families, thereby contributing more effectively to the transitional justice aims of truth, justice, reparation, and non-repetition.
Original languageEnglish
Number of pages165
Publication statusPublished (in print/issue) - 31 May 2022


  • Disappearance
  • Asia
  • Latin America
  • Human Rights


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