Nearly 62,000 people have been disappeared in Colombia, announced the country’s ombudsman on Tuesday, the International Day of the Disappeared.
The Commission for the Search for Disappeared Persons, a division of the Ombudsman Office, reported that the number of disappeared people has risen to 61,604, an almost 30% increase from the 47,757 people reported in June 2010. According to the findings, that number consists of more than 47,000 men and nearly 14,500 women.
The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) called attention to the tragic situation in Colombia in a press communique on the eve of the International Day of the Disappeared. According to the ICRC, “people on all sides of a conflict are affected. Civilians, military personnel, or members of armed groups may be killed in fighting or made to disappear as part of an effort to spread fear in a community.”
Guilhem Ravier, the ICRC’s expert on missing and disappeared persons in Colombia, believes that the will exists to help people bring closure to families, but the exhausting paperwork and sheer multitude of disappeared people exacerbates the problem.
“The identification process is long and complex and it’s like a maze for families. They need to receive information that they can understand. They need support, and they need to be treated with respect,” explained Ravier.
According to Olivier Dubois, the deputy head of the ICRC’s Central Tracing Agency and Protection Division, “each person who goes missing leaves behind any number of distressed relatives. Not only do they live in limbo for years or even decades, which prevents them from finding closure, but very frequently they are also confronted with complex and intimidating administrative red tape.”
“Even if they suspect that a family member is dead, relatives may not be able to mourn properly. Without proof of death, family members are unable to move on, sell property, or simply conduct funeral rites,” Dubois added.
According to international media, the number of missing people in Colombia is among the highest in the world.
“States have an obligation under international humanitarian law to take all feasible measures to account for people who went missing, and to give families all the information they obtain,” said Dubois.