Almost 40, 000 people have been kidnapped in Colombia over the past four decades, a report published on Thursday said.
According to the National Center of Historical Memory report, a total of 39,058 people, mostly Colombians, were kidnapped in the past 40 years. These kidnapped victims spent a total of 9,678 years in captivity of their kidnappers.
Rebel group FARC has been the primary perpetrator of kidnappings since 1970. According to the report, the country’s largest guerrilla organization was confirmed guilty in 37% of the 9,082 cases in which the kidnapper was identified. In 33% of the remaining 29,085 cases of which the perpetrator was not established the FARC was the presumed perpetrator.
The ELN, Colombia’s second largest rebel group, was identified as perpetrator in 30% of cases in which the perpetrator was identified. The guerrillas were the suspected kidnappers in 25% of the cases in which the perpetrator was never legally established.
A variety of criminals and criminal organizations, not linked to any political ideology, were guilty of 20% of the resolved kidnappings and were the suspected kidnapper in 27% of unresolved cases.
Right-wing paramilitary groups, active in Colombia since the 1980s, were the confirmed kidnapper in 4% of resolved cases and the suspected kidnapper in 7% of unresolved cases.
The tragedy of kidnappings began taking form at the end of the 1970s when drug cartels and guerrilla groups increased their power. In the second half of the 1990s, the number of kidnappings rose from approximately 500 per year to 3,500 in the year 2000. Between then and 2008 the number of kidnappings dropped significantly to approximately 1,300.
According to the National Center for Historical Memory, 97% of kidnap victims were Colombian nationals and the remaining 3% were foreigners. In 78% of the cases, the victim was male and in the remaining 22% of cases the victim was female.
The majority of victims, 59%, was held by their kidnappers between one and 30 days. In 9% of the cases, victims were held for more than a year, said the report.
The vast majority (84%) of kidnappings, also by politically motivated groups like the FARC and ELN, was economic gain. Only 12% of the kidnappings was politically motivated. In 4% of the kidnappings the motive was neither economic or political.
The report was made after compiling and purifying data of the Defense Ministry, former intelligence agency DAS, the Prosecutor General’s Office, the National Police, court sentences, and press and other publications.
- Una verdad Secuestrada (PDF / Centro Nacional de Memoria Histórica)