The enforced disappearance of persons violates a number of fundamental human rights and often serves to cover-up further rights violations. In Latin America thousands of oppositionists disappeared during the 1970's and 80's. Many victims subsequently faced torture and murder; in other cases the fate of the disappeared remains unknown. Similar reports of disappearances are currently emerging from places such as Sri Lanka and the Northern Caucasus.
In cases of enforced disappearance, the perpetrators include not only those who kidnap and detain the victim, but also those who withhold information from relatives relating to the victim's whereabouts. In an effort to address the multiplicity of fundamental human rights violations involved, the United Nations drew up the International Convention for the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearance in 2006, which was ratified by Germany on 24 September 2009.
The first trial worldwide on state torture in Syria started in Germany, in April 2020. The main defendant is Anwar R, a former official at the General Intelligence Directorate in Syrian President Assad’s government. ECCHR supports 17 Syrian torture survivors in the proceedings.
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.
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.
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.
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.
More than 30,000 people fell victim to the military dictatorship in Argentina (1976-1983). The victims included around one hundred people with German citizenship or German roots, among them Elisabeth Käsemann.
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.
The case of Khaled El Masri is one of the best documented extraordinary renditions by the CIA. Several inquiry commissions took up this case and a number of lawsuits were filed before different national and regional courts.