A nonperson is a citizen or a member of a group who lacks, loses, or is forcibly denied social or legal status, especially basic human rights, or who effectively ceases to have a record of their existence within a society (damnatio memoriae), from a point of view of traceability, documentation, or existence. The term also refers to people whose death is unverifiable.
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. (November 2017)
Asserting that someone is a nonperson is implicitly a normative statement; by doing so, it is implied simultaneously that the person referred to is entitled to the rights that any person should have. Who is a person and what every person is entitled to depends on context and social norms. For example, wards that are under the authority of a legal guardian due to infancy, incapacity, or disability are not usually considered nonpersons.
There are many possible meanings associated with the term nonperson.
In Nazi extermination camps, Jewish people and Romani were treated as nonpersons. The purpose of these camps was to systematically dehumanise these unwanted peoples, use them where possible, and dispose of them efficiently. "Nonperson" status was required because it removed the moral and social obstacles for committing otherwise objectionable acts of violence, crime, abuse, and murder.
Unofficially missing people
Some people are covertly held by governments or other bodies, and effectively cease to exist. This happened under Pinochet's dictatorship in Chile and Argentina's last military dictatorship. It was also the guiding strategy behind the Nazi government's Nacht und Nebel (Night & Fog) policy in Western Europe. To dodge pointed questions regarding supposedly democratically controlled governments covertly holding people or employing torture, plausible deniability of knowledge might be used. The existence of ghost detainees in a secret CIA prison system is an example of this.
In North Korea even prominent people are "airbrushed from history", because the government has complete control over the internal media. For example Jang Song-thaek, the uncle of Leader Kim Jong-Un, has been removed from pictures and videos since his execution. KCNA and Rodong Sinmun began erasing references to Jang "as completely as possible", deleting some 100,000 and 20,000 news items from their websites, respectively.