Enforced disappearance is a tool of state repression used predominantly in authoritarian states. It occurs when state forces bring a person within their control, and refuse to give any information about the person’s whereabouts.
In many cases a disappearance leads to torture and/or murder. Family members have no way of finding out the fate of their relative and the “disappeared” person is denied any possibility of legal protection. Enforced disappearance can constitute a crime against humanity.
Germany must not be a safe haven for those who commit dictatorship crimes. The former Argentine military officer Luis K is wanted in Argentina for his involvement in crimes against humanity during the country’s military dictatorship (1976-83). As a German citizen, he cannot be extradited. However, the German judiciary may well investigate and prosecute him.
Colonia Dignidad, founded by a German named Paul Schäfer in 1961, was a fortress-like German settlement in central Chile where grave human rights violations were committed over several decades. The former doctor of the Colonia Dignidad, Hartmut Hopp, should face prison in Germany.
ECCHR filed a criminal complaint against Nestlé and some of its top managers in 2012. The complaint accuses the managers of being in breach of their obligations by failing to prevent crimes of Colombian paramilitary groups and failing to adequately protect trade unionists from these crimes.
Death threats, telephone surveillance, kidnapping of family members – the Colombian government uses a range of means in its efforts to intimidate human rights defenders. Since 2012, ECCHR has researched and documented the brutal repression of trade unionists, environmental activists or community leaders in Colombia.
In February 2019, the Regional Court in Stuttgart (Germany) convicted employees of the arms manufacturer Heckler & Koch in a case concerning the shipment of rifles to Mexico. The court investigated whether, between 2006 and 2009, Heckler & Koch illegally sold Type G36 rifles to the Mexican police.
The Spanish judiciary brought charges against judge Garzón, who declared his court competent to undertake preliminary investigations into the enforced disappearance, torture and execution during the Spanish Civil War and the Franco dictatorship. Garzón was acquitted of the charges later-on. It remains doubtful whether Spain is willing to independently adress the past atrocities.