In international human rights law, an enforced disappearance occurs when a person is abducted or imprisoned by state agents or by a third party with the authorization, support or acquiescence of the state, followed by a refusal to acknowledge the person's fate and whereabouts, which place the victim outside the protection of the law.
When a person is 'disappeared', chances are high that they may also be tortured or killed.
The widespread or systematic practice of enforced disappearance is a crime against humanity.
According to the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court, which came into force on 1 July 2002, when committed as part of a widespread or systematic attack directed at any civilian population, a "forced disappearance" qualifies as a crime against humanity and, thus, is not subject to a statute of limitations. On 20 December 2006, the United Nations General Assembly adopted the International Convention for the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearance.
Often forced disappearance implies murder. The victim in such a case is abducted, illegally detained and often tortured during interrogation; killed, and the body hidden. Typically, a murder will be surreptitious, with the corpse disposed of to escape discovery, so that the person apparently vanishes. The party committing the murder has deniability, as nobody provides evidence of the victim's death.