The Medellin ombudsman report released Thursday revealed both a 20% increase in disappearances in the Medellin area for 2013, and an 88% increase in disappeared persons later found murdered.
In 2013 654 people were reported disappeared in Medellin, compared with 521 in 2012. The bodies of 32 of the disappeared found in 2013 almost double the 17 bodies found in 2012.
The increase of disappearances could indicate a wider effort by armed groups, suspected of carrying out ‘displacement’ to conceal the bodies of victims, said the ombudsman report.
A 25% decrease in homicides coincided with the increase in disappearances last year. A truce was reportedly brokered between the city’s main gangs, Oficina de Envigado and the Urabeños, during the summer of last year. The ceasefire between rival gangs throughout the city has allowed gangs more time to dispose of bodies.
The ombudsman report acknowledges that successfully ‘disappearing’ bodies provides Medellin’s criminal gangs greater immunity from legal prosecution, since it leaves authorities with little to no evidence.
Despite the 20% increase in forced disappearances the report actually documents a three fold increase in the number of victims who reappeared during 2013. There was also a 30% decline in the number of victims who continued to be disappeared at the end of the year, compared to 2012.
The report noted that 221 of the 654 reported victims last year were minors. Many of these disappeared youth stated that they were taken by larger armed groups that wished to recruit the youth. This is a technique that has been used for decades in Colombia by both left and right wing armed groups.
This report also showed that 62% of this years disappearances were female and only 38% were male.
Medellin Ombudsman, Rodrigo de Jesus Ardila, explained in interview with Colombia Reports that criminal groups prefer to recruit girls into their ranks. Adult men, however, are disappeared almost three times more than adult women. According to Ardila the greater overall percentage of people displaced are women, who are statistically more likely to leave their homes. Men aged 18-35 made up the majority of the disappeared and were also the most likely to be found dead or remain disappeared in 2013.
Ardilla stated that 2,526 people have been disappeared in Medellin in the last four years. Of these victims 1,017 reappeared alive, 147 were found killed and 1,272 remain disappeared.
- Interview with Rodrigo de Jesus Ardila
- Report on the Human Rights situation in Medellin: Medellin Ombudsman (Informe sobre la situacion de Derechos Humanos en la ciudad Medellin vigencia 2013)