A survey to determine the number of unidentified corpses found by authorities in Colombia has returned a count of 10,084 so far, with more than half of the country’s municipalities yet to report their figures, reports El Espectador.
The survey, which is being conducted by the Justice and Peace tribunal with the Prosecutor General’s Office, was distributed in July to mayor’s offices in an attempt to get an accurate count of the unidentified bodies registered by authorities across the country. As yet, less than half of the 1,034 municipalities have responded.
According to reports, the departments with the largest amount of unidentified bodies found correspond to areas where conflict has been heightened recently. The department of Antioquia registered the largest amount of dead thus far with 3,573 corpses. This is followed by Meta, with 1,363, and Santander, with 776.
The Prosecutor General’s Office said it is important that efforts to count the bodies are centralized nationally to ensure all bodies are counted and families are given the opportunity to be identify their kin. There is often confusion in matching an autopsy number with the proper body.
The municipality of La Macarena in Meta reported 464 unidentified bodies, a figure only slightly higher than the 446 reported by United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (UNHCHR). The UNHCHR conducted an investigation in September following reports from human rights organizations that a mass grave in the town held 2,000 unidentified bodies. The Colombian government denied the allegations from the group of NGOs, claiming the group was trying to use the announcement to undermine a free trade agreement with the European Union. The UNHCHR did not find indications of either a mass grave or secret burials, but did not rule out the possibility that “new information could be received that would serve to define, enrich or adjust” the contents of the report.
According to an annual report issued by Colombia’s forensics agency, Medicina Legal, over 18,200 Colombians went missing in 2009. In October 2010, a government official announced there are over 50,000 missing people in Colombia.
The prosecutor general has registered some 27,000 people as missing, but admits there are still many cases that need to be investigated.