Colombia: ICRC welcomes measures to find missing people

09 November 2015

On 18 October the government of Colombia and the Colombian Revolutionary Armed Forces (FARC) announced that they would be taking a wide range of measures to find missing people. The aim is to provide answers to the hundreds of thousands of people who are still searching for their missing loved ones.

Elsa, an indigenous woman from the Chocó department, holds a photo of her reunion with her son. The ICRC helped them re-establish contact with each other after ten years without news. CC BY-NC-ND/ICRC/Juan Arredondo

Families of missing people live in a state of constant uncertainty, not knowing whether their relatives are alive or dead. We at the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) welcome this chance to give the families closure.

We are also prepared to help implement the measures. Specifically, we will draw on our long experience to advise the organizations in charge, provide support to families and exhume mortal remains in areas the Colombian government cannot access. Our goal in providing support is the same as in everything we do: alleviate the suffering of victims of armed conflict.

Official figures indicate that more than 100,000 people remain unaccounted for (see infographic, in Spanish), and the consequences are devastating. Families have been destroyed, and those left behind often suffer psychological trauma and are left in dire economic straits. Tackling this problem is therefore a priority for us. For more than ten years we have been providing psychosocial and economic support to families and making sure they know their rights. These efforts will continue in the years ahead.

The consequences are devastating, with families ripped apart, suffering the psychological effects of loss and crushing economic conditions ...

So far this year we have investigated the cases of 147 missing people by contacting those allegedly responsible for their disappearance. We have also provided guidance and support to 154 families and trained around one hundred government employees in conducting searches and managing mortal remains. Through our campaign The Missing: The Right to Know, we are calling on society to stand with the victims and remind all those concerned just how important it is for them to play their part to fill the void left behind when someone disappears.

These new measures are a very important first step towards doing much more to find the long-awaited answers. Expectations are high, but it will be a long road: solving the mystery of the missing in Colombia will take years of hard work.

We at the ICRC are fully committed to implementing these measures and we thank everyone involved for the trust they have placed in us. We will continue working on behalf of families' right to know, so that they all might find the answers they need and a sense of closure.

Christoph Harnisch,
Head of the ICRC delegation in Colombia