On Day of the Disappeared, world remembers those who’ve gone missing

BY Carey Reed  August 30, 2014 at 2:36 PM EDT
Protesters calling for the release of a group of abducted Nigerian schoolgirls gather outside Nigeria House in London. Photo by Dan Kitwood/Getty Images

Protesters calling for the release of a group of abducted Nigerian schoolgirls gather outside Nigeria House in London in May. On Saturday, the 31st International Day of the Disappeared, Secretary of State John Kerry urged the important of continuing the search for individuals disappeared abroad, including the 200 schoolgirls kidnapped in April from the village of Chibok, Nigeria.  Credit: Dan Kitwood/Getty Images

Saturday is the 31st International Day of the Disappeared, when the world remembers those who have gone missing.

There are millions of reported cases of missing persons from armed conflict and human rights abuses, according to the International Commission on Missing Persons. Every year, thousands of people go missing due to disasters, human trafficking, organized crime and other causes.

“Too often, lawyers, investigative journalists, and human rights activists fall victim to kidnapping for simply speaking the truth,” Secretary of State John Kerry said in a statement. “That is unacceptable.”

“This is a historic occasion because even though the tragedy of missing persons is as old as mankind, there is a very limited understanding of the diverse nature and major impact of this global problem,” the ICMP press release said.

Last week, the Islamic State extremist group released a video of the beheading of American journalist, James Foley. Foley was kidnapped on Thanksgiving Day 2012 while covering the Syrian uprising, according to the Associated Press.

Steven Sotloff, another American journalist who disappeared last year, also appeared in the video alongside Foley. Sotloff remains in captivity. 

In the statement, Kerry also called out the individuals who have disappeared due to the actions of the Assad government in Syria and the more than 200 schoolgirls who were kidnapped in April in the village of Chibok, Nigeria.

Kerry urged the importance of continuing the search for all of these individuals, not only to end their suffering, but that of their families and friends.

“They are missing, but never left behind. They are gone, but not lost. They are taken, but not forgotten,” he said.

Due to scientific advances in criminal investigations, the State Department has been able to help reunite families.

Last year, a woman who was abducted from her family during a massacre in Latin America in 1982, was reunited with her family. She was only 18 months old at the time of her disappearance.

Additionally, during the conflicts in the former Yugoslavia during the 1990s, an estimated 40,000 persons went missing as a consequence of armed conflict, abuses of human rights and other atrocities. Today, 70 percent of those missing have been accounted for, ICMP said.