Enforced disappearance in Africa

In many conflicts in Africa, from the Algerian civil war in the 1990s, Libya under Muammar Gaddafi, Sudan during the civil war, and Zimbabwe under Robert Mugabe, opponents of the government or people just in the wrong place at the wrong time, have disappeared.

The victims of these enforced disappearances are often tortured, and their family are left behind with no information on the whereabouts or fate of their loved one.

Adopting a victim-centred approach, REDRESS is working with partners in Algeria, Sudan, Zimbabwe, and Libya to support human rights lawyers to bring cases challenging enforced disappearance, and to highlight this particular problem to the African Union and specific governments. Our partners in this project are Lawyers for Justice in Libya, MENA Rights Group, Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights and the African Centre for Justice and Peace Studies.

Through our work, we seek the development of African standards for the prevention of this crime, while empowering the families of victims to pursue accountability.

Our work explores cross-cutting areas, such as enforced disappearance in the context of migration routes (Sudan, Libya), opposition activists and rights defenders, security and conflict related disappearances (with ethnic and religious minorities targeted) and the long-term disappeared (Algeria and Libya).

Our approach also takes into account the gender dimension of enforced disappearance, and the impact of this crime on women and girls in Africa.

REDRESS exposes enforced disappearance as a form of torture by working with:

  • Families of the disappeared.
  • Civil society and lawyers helping families.
  • National officials.
  • The African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights (ACHPR).

Recent publications

The reports below provide an overview of enforced disappearances in Libya, Algeria and Sudan. They outline what constitutes an enforced disappearance under the domestics laws of these countries and how this compares to the international legal definition. They also include information about who are the main perpetrators and the profiles of people commonly targeted, as well as recommendations to key domestic and international actors to hold those responsible to account and ensure redress for the victims.