From November 27 to 29, ICIP gathered in Barcelona more than twenty women from all over the world involved in the fight against enforced disappearances. Most of them are victims or direct relatives of missing people. The meeting aimed to create a space for the exchange of experiences and knowledge between the participating women and to put the needs and demands of the victims at the centre of the topic. The observations and recommendations of the women that have emerged from the meeting will be considered for the World Congress on Enforced Disappearances, which is expected to be held next year.

“Enforced disappearances constitute a cluster of serious violations of human rights with an enormous impact, not only on the people directly affected but also on the community and social sphere. The impact is even replicated from generation to generation”, explains Sabina Puig, ICIP officer and one of the meeting organisers.

“Although the obligation to prevent them and to offer truth, justice and reparation relies on the States, many times the families of the missing persons themselves undertake the task of searching for them and demanding measures for the protection of the human rights, as well as guarantees of non-repetition. And this, despite the multiple obstacles and risks it poses in many contexts”, she adds.

Women from a dozen countries

The meeting was attended by women from Algeria, Argentina, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Colombia, El Salvador, the Philippines, Honduras, Lebanon, Mexico, the Western Sahara and Syria, among others. There were also women from the Basque Country and Catalonia. What they all had in common was having lived through how a close family member had been forcibly disappeared and their struggle to find the relatives. The women participated in workshops and training sessions for three days with informal talks and care and self-care activities.

“The meeting has been beneficial to reflect on the relationship between peacebuilding and the search for missing persons and to value the contributions of these groups of searchers at the same time that, based on the exchange of strategies and knowledge, transfer knowledge and offer tools that can strengthen their work”, comments Sílvia Plana, another of the ICIP officers in charge of this event.

After the gathering, several participants stressed the need for more reunions like this. “These international meetings also serve as protection for us. It is necessary to place families at the centre of the decision-making processes and to give visibility to all the violence that is exercised when an enforced disappearance is committed: both towards the disappeared person and their relatives”, expressed a Latin American participant. Also, the mother of a missing young man emphasized the importance of initiatives like this to weave ties and generate networks of solidarity between women seekers.

ICIP will soon publish a study on the role of women in the fight against enforced disappearances and the links of their work with peacebuilding. This publication will collect some of the contributions made during the face-to-face meeting organized in Barcelona.