“Nobody simply disappears. Every individual has a basic right of knowing what happened to their relative or relatives. No one should be left in the dark by someone saying ‘well, your relative simply vanished.’” These words by a Peruvian forensic anthropologist Pablo Baraybar best encapsulate the struggle of families of persons missing or disappeared as a result of conflict or repression.
The impact of disappearances on family members is devastating and long lasting. It impedes traditional practices of mourning and honoring the dead and leaves relatives in a kind of psychological limbo, unable to achieve closure. And this state of not knowing affects entire societies, gripping them in fear about the future and imposing silence about the past.
In Lebanon today, 20 years after the end of its brutal civil war, the fates of more than 17,000 people remain unknown. In response to official silence, the families of the missing and forcibly disappeared have recently joined together with local and international civil society organizations to draft a law designed to help search for their loved ones.
The years of waiting for answers in Lebanon has been long, so long that some activists have died still not knowing what became of their loved ones. But this has only motivated those remaining to more strongly make their demand: “Dead or alive, it’s our right to know.”
This is taken from the ICTJ discussion of the international day for the right to truth, see more here.