Photo: ICRC Colombia

Return to freedom: 44 years of neutral intermediation in Colombia

Between 1980 – when we secured the first release of a person deprived of their liberty by an armed actor in Colombia – and 2023, we have facilitated 1,960 releases, always with the goal of returning people to their family homes.
Article 03 April 2024 Colombia

In 2023, 66 people were reunited with their loved ones thanks to our neutral intermediation. This figure, the highest in recent years, exceeds the 63 releases we facilitated in 2022. Among those released were civilians, members of the armed forces and members of armed actors.

These results were possible thanks to our decades of experience in this area and the trust generated by the bilateral and confidential dialogue we maintain with all armed actors. We provide helpful, neutral interme- diation when agreed upon by the parties. Based on our principles of neutrality, impartiality and independence, the parties allow us to receive the released people, check their state of health and reunite them with their families.

Our neutrality in conflicts does not make us indifferent to the suffering someone under the control of an armed group can experience. On the contrary. Not taking sides is what allows us to reach the most remote parts of the country with the sole objective of helping people affected by the war.

The ongoing task of raising awareness about IHL

The ICRC has been working for more than 50 years to raise awareness of IHL and its implementation it in Colombia. This takes the form of efforts to position IHL as a source of protection for the population affected by armed conflicts and to promote respect for it. To this end, the ICRC has maintained an ongoing bilateral dialogue with armed groups and the State, as well as with negotiation tables within the framework of the current Total Peace policy.

In 2023, we strengthened the knowledge of more than 700 students, civil authorities, journalists and public officials in IHL and related topics. We also participated in forums, academic activities and discussion tables.

Likewise, we made efforts to include IHL and interna- tional standards on the use of force in the norms and resolutions of the military and police forces. We advised on the development of regulations and trained more than 4,700 members of the armed and security forces in different parts of the country.