The crime of enforced disappearances must end

Cases especially in Asia are not decreasing, with domestic criminal law systems insufficient to deal with this atrocity

GS 2: International Relations


  • On February 1, 2021, the military launched a coup d’état to overthrow the democratically elected government led by Aung San Suu Kyi’s party, the National League for Democracy.
  • This was led by protests of democratic nature all over the country. The democracy movement in Myanmar is at a critical juncture in recent times.
  • In response to widespread protests the military is committed to suppressing the people’s movement, and the police are carrying out unimaginable acts of violence and oppression against those demanding freedom of expression and the restoration of democracy.
  •  The United Nations Working Group on Enforced or Involuntary Disappearances (WGEID) has received reports of enforced disappearances from the family members of victims.
  • There is a possibility that there are plethora of cases of enforced disappearances, torture, arbitrary detention, and even murder if the situation continues to deteriorate. This trend of forced disappearance is not just seen in Myanmar rather a common phenomenon seen in South Asia.

Concerns around minorities

  • This trend of forced disapperances is also seen in China in  Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region. Here in the name of re-education to end terrorism, Uighur minority ethnic group members are forcibly sent to what Chinese authorities call ‘vocational education and training centers’.
  • The basis for such forced disappearances is often very trivial: for example, having relatives living abroad or maintaining international contacts could lead to an enforced disappearance.
  • ‘Residential Surveillance at a Designated Location (RSDL)’ under Article 73 of the amended Criminal Procedure Law, is used against individuals accused of endangering state security. Because RSDL places individuals under incommunicado detention without disclosing their whereabouts, it may amount to a form of enforced disappearance.

Post-conflict issues

  • Sri Lanka has experienced more than three decades of domestic conflict, which was accompanied by various forms of enforced disappearances.
  •  Recently, the government is weakening initiatives it previously started to search for and investigate enforced disappearances and has now returned to promoting a culture of impunity for these crimes.
  • These enforced disapperances are carried out in the name of “counter terror measures“. A numbers of enforced disappearances are being reported in Pakistan and Bangladesh.
  • Enforced disappearances were seen in the 1970s and the early 1980s during the ‘Dirty War’ in Argentina where the Argentine military dictatorship committed the forceful disappearances of some 30,000 of its own citizens while denying that they kidnapped, tortured, and murdered them.
  • This led to UN Commission on Human Rights establish the Working Group in 1980 as the first special procedure mechanism of the UN Commission on Human Rights.
  • There are various definitions for enforced disappearance like absence of liberty, grounds for seeking governmental responsibility for the act, it typically occurs in the context of a state’s continuous refusal to take relevant action, including refusal to disclose the fate or whereabouts of the persons concerned.

Remedial measures

  • Under the Declaration on the Protection of all Persons from Enforced Disappearance (1992), the Working Group works to assist families of disappeared persons to ascertain the fate and whereabouts of the disappeared and to assist and monitor states’ compliance.
  • The Working Group receives individual petitions from victims’ families and civil society members, and channels them through to the relevant governments to demand searches for the disappeared persons, investigations, and punishment for those responsible.
  • The WGEID also presses states to offer remedies, including compensation and a guarantee of non-recurrence of the violations.
  • Unfortunately, the number of cases of enforced disappearances in Asian states is not decreasing and we are seeing a rapid increase in some countries.
  • Enforrced disapperances have not died down during COVID-19 rather found some new contexts.It has reduced the capacity of all actors to take the necessary action to search for and investigate cases of disappeared persons.

Ratifying the Convention

  • The international community adopted the International Convention for the Protection of all Persons from Enforced Disappearance in 2006, which became effective in 2010.
  •  Number of participating states is still very low compared to other treaties. Among 63 member states of the treaty, only eight states from the Asia-Pacific region have ratified or acceded to the treaty. Only four East Asian states — Cambodia,Japan, Mongolia, and Sri Lanka have ratified it.


  • An enforced disappearance is a continuous crime that needs a comprehensive approach to fight against it. Thus Asian countries need to understand this.
  • Enforced disappearance is a serious crime that goes against the philosophy of humanity. This human atrocity must end immediately.
  • International community should strengthen its efforts to eradicate enforced disappearances as soon as possible.

2. Mucormycosis risk mitigation in the COVID battle

Diabetes control can lower the chances of dangerous side-effects in COVID-19 treatment such as this fungal infection

GS 2 : Health


  • COVID-19 has many sideeffects and affect those who are people with comorbidities such as being of an older age, obese, having uncontrolled diabetes, heart or respiratory diseases and malignancies.
  • According to a survey 70%-80% affected with COVID-19 recover without many side-effects, about 20%-30% of patients affected with symptomatic COVID-19 might require hospitalisation, a minority section can get worse and require treatment in an intensive care unit (ICU).

New worry

  • The new fear after the treatment of COVID-19, especially in an ICU setting, is contracting a severe disease known as mucormycosis.
  • It is a rare, fungal infection caused by a group of fungi known as mucormycetes. Mucormycosis usually affects people who have poor immunity, and uncontrolled diabetes have the highest risk of developing it.
  • Other risk factors of mucormycosis include steroid treatment, those who have malignancies, HIV/AIDS and those who have been treated with medicines such as deferoxamine for iron overload conditions.
  • Heavy doses of steroids to patients without diabetic conditon may be vulnerable to contract it and it substantially raise blood glucose levels in  diabetic people. This sets the scene for the development of mucormycosis.

Types and diagnosis

  • The first type is rhino-orbital-cerebral mucormycosis. This starts as a common cold or sinusitis, but soon spreads to the eyes producing redness of the eyes, and later bulging of the eyes known as proptosis. It may eventually lead to paralysis of some of the eye muscles, or even to blindness. It can also spread to the brain, and if this occurs, the prognosis is very grave.
  • Other forms of mucormycosis include the pulmonary form in which the lungs are mainly involved and less common cutaneous mucormycosis or disseminated mucormycosis, where it spreads throughout the body.
  • It can be cured if the condition is diagnosed early and aggressive treatment given. Antifungal drugs such as Amphotericin B are used, but they are quite toxic and also expensive. Sometimes if the case is grave it may need a surgery.

Sugar control, steroid use

  • It is important for  diabetic people to keep their sugar levels under very good control.
  • Meticulous hygiene and care of the equipment inside the ICU including oxygen tubes and ventilators should be done in order to reduce the risk of fungal and other infections.
  • Use of the steroids does not help in the initial phase of COVID-19 and may also worsen the situation. It should be used  only when the cytokine storm is suspected, (which usually occurs in the second week of the COVID-19 infection) , and that too with discretion.

Monitor blood glucose

  • If proper importance is not given to monitoring of blood sugar levels while giving steroids during the treatment of COVID-19  it can lead to extremely dangerous high blood glucose levels.
  • This can also precipitate diabetic ketoacidosis — a classic situation where the more dangerous forms of mucormycosis occur.


  • Healthy diet with a lot of vegetables and less cereals (rice or chapati) by including more protein in the form of bengal gram, green gram, black gram, or mushroom will help fight covid better.
  •  An active and regular exercise programme is necessary. It is very important to take medicine timely  and keep sugar level under control.
  • All these measures will help to effect good control of diabetes which can reduce the risk of developing COVID-19 and also its dangerous side-effects including mucormycosis.
  • Frequent monitoring of sugar levels should be done.If possible then wear a small sensor patch on the upper arm which can continuously monitor a person’s blood glucose levels and thus keep it under good control throughout the day.
  • Vaccination is also important as it will ensure that the risk of developing severe COVID-19, requiring hospitalisation and thus the risk of developing dangerous infections such as mucormycosis, can be drastically reduced.


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