Department of Political Science


Enforced Disappearances, Current and Historical Perspectives

30 November 2023, 6:15 pm–7:30 pm

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Part of the UCL Policy & Practice seminar series. Co-organised with our Conflict And Change research group.

This event is free.

Event Information

Open to







Eleanor Kingwell-Banham


Gordon Street
United Kingdom

Enforced disappearances have been employed as a tool by states throughout history. This seminar will shed light on this egregious violation of human rights, exploring both its historical roots and contemporary manifestations.

Our panel of experts will bring forth the stark realities faced by victims and their families, provide insights into the relevant international laws and conventions and the challenges in holding perpetrators accountable under these legal frameworks. The panel will analyse how state actions in this regard can strain diplomatic relations, impact global alliances, and influence the perception of nations on the international stage.

Meet our speakers

Dr Francesca Lessa is Associate Professor in International Relations of the Americas at UCL. Between 2016 and 2020, she was the recipient of the prestigious Marie Skłodowska-Curie (Global) Fellowship of the European Commission, leading a project on Operation Condor in South America in the 1970s and efforts to achieve justice for such atrocities. Her latest book, The Condor Trials: Transnational Repression and Human Rights in South America, was the winner of the 2023 Juan Méndez Book Award for Human Rights in Latin America and received an honourable mention for the 2023 Bryce Wood Book Award of the Latin American Studies Association (LASA).

In her latest book Francesca unravels the secrets of transnational repression masterminded by South American dictators between 1969 and 1981. Under Operation Condor, their violent and oppressive regimes kidnapped, tortured, and murdered hundreds of exiles. South America became a zone of terror for those who were targeted, and of impunity for those who perpetuated the violence. Lessa shows how networks of justice seekers gradually materialized and effectively transcended national borders to achieve justice for the victims of these horrors.

Dr Gabriella Citroni is an accomplished academic and legal expert specializing in International Human Rights Law. She currently serves as an adjunct professor at the University of Milano-Bicocca in Italy, and a lecturer at the Geneva Academy of Humanitarian Law and Human Rights. Since August 2021, Gabriella has been an active member of the United Nations Working Group on Enforced or Involuntary Disappearances, and she has assumed the role of vice-chair since 2022. In addition, she acts as the international legal adviser for the Latin American Federation of Associations of Relatives of Disappeared People (FEDEFAM).

Gabriella's career is marked by her commitment to human rights advocacy. She has been a senior legal adviser for TRIAL International since 2008, and from 2003 to 2005, she was a legal advisor for the Italian delegation at the United Nations during the negotiations of the International Convention on the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearance. Throughout her career, Gabriella has served as an external consultant for various United Nations bodies, the Council of Europe, the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, and the International Committee of the Red Cross.

Her research focuses primarily on international human rights law, and she dedicates part of her time to collaborating with various international NGOs, offering legal assistance to victims of severe human rights violations and their families in countries such as Algeria, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Colombia, Nepal, Morocco, Iraq, and Mexico. She has written numerous articles and books on international human rights law, including "La Tutela internazionale dei diritti umani" (2022) co-authored with Professor Tullio Scovazzi and "The Struggle against Enforced Disappearance and the 2007 Convention" (2007).

This panel will be chaired by Dr Rod Abouharb, Associate Professor in International Relations at UCL Political Science.

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This event will be recorded and the video will be uploaded to our YouTube channel.

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There is step free access into the lecture theatre.

There are no designated spaces for wheelchair users within the lecture theatre.

There is space for an assistance dog.

There is not a hearing assistance system for the lecture theatre.

There is a visual fire alarm beacon in the lecture theatre.

More information can be found here.

Conflict and Change 

Pursuing systematic and empirically informed research, the group brings together scholars to analyse the causes, dynamics, and consequences of political conflicts and violence.

Other events in this series