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Memorializing the Missing

Since 1980, the United Nations Working Group on Enforced or Involuntary Disappearances has recorded more than 59,000 cases of enforced disappearances across 110 countries. While forensics investigations that identify the missing are crucial to justice and accountability, they can take decades to complete and are often dependent on political will.

Memorialization can be an effective means of supporting families alongside or in advance of such investigations – providing them with opportunities to share their experiences with other survivors, honor their missing loved ones and advocate for truth and justice. Below are a few recent examples of such projects supported by GIJTR and its partners.

Voices of Women Media, Nepal

Between 1996 and 2006, Nepal was afflicted by the what is called the People's War, countrywide fighting between the Nepalese royal government and the Communist Party of Nepal (Maoist).
The toll of the 10-year-long conflict was profound with over 17,000 people killed, an estimated 20,000 tortured and more than 1530 disappeared.
Although the war ended over a decade ago, families of the missing are still wondering about the whereabout of their loved ones.
To support them, Voices of Women Media, a Site of Conscience in Nepal, has developed community photo projects to continue remembering those who disappeared during the war.
In doing so, families not only memorialize through artistic methods their loved ones, but also, they remind the rest of society about what happened in Nepal.
As part of their work, Voices of Women Media also holds exhibits where visitors can learn more about the lives of those who perished during the war.

ACT for the Disappeared, Lebanon

During the Lebanese civil war (1975-1990), over 17,000 people were disappeared.
ACT for the Disappeared, a Site of Conscience in Lebanon, has developed a series of community-led projects to ensure families of the disappeared have a chance to share the stories behind their missing loved ones.
One of the projects included “Empty Chairs,” made by families of missing persons in Saida, Baabda and Aley, that tell the stories of those who went missing and represent the empty space left in the lives of their families.
In 2023, as part of GIJTR's Forensics Academy, ACT developed a project alongside families of the missing and disappeared in which they could write messages to their loved ones on "Memorial Benches" in Beirut.
After finishing the "Memorial Benches," relatives gathered around the benches to answer questions from people visiting the park where the benches are located.
A close-up of one of the "Memorial Benches" developed by families of the missing and disappeared in Lebanon.

Network of Families of the Disappeared (NEFAD), Nepal

NEFAD, a Site of Conscience member in Nepal, is a network of district-based associations of families of the missing and disappeared in Nepal.
To support families, NEFAD developed a quilting project, in which relatives could express their feelings through this artistic approach.
NEFAD also developed a memorialization mural through which wives of the missing and disappeared not only honored their relatives, but expressed their hopes for the future of Nepal.