Former FARC guerrillas search for missing persons

By Mariana Lersundy
Bogota, Colombia, 15 May 2020: As members of FARC guerillas, they were involved in Colombia’s civil war. Now, as members of the FARC Commission for the Search of Disappeared Persons, they contribute to peace by supporting the country’s work to account for the large number of people who are missing as a consequence of more than five decades of conflict.

The commission, a civil society organization created in the framework of the 2016 Peace Accords, focuses on documenting and collecting information regarding missing persons. Earlier this year, members of the commission took part in training at the ICMP Bogota office, learning how to strengthen their organization and how to use a special, ICMP-developed software that can manage and analyze data on missing persons and those who are searching for them. Commission members also have taken part in other ICMP workshops and training on data issues. The training supports the commission’s efforts to document cases of missing persons currently underway in Meta and Nariño, two of Colombia’s 32 geographic departments.

The two departments were selected because “they have been regions historically affected by disappearance” and because the commission has experienced staff in the regions, said commission member Jhon Freddy León. The commission had begun collecting information in the field when the Covid-19 pandemic forced it to adapt its work and focus on analysis of already-collected information and consultation of secondary sources. The group has contacts with former guerillas, some of whom have valuable first-hand information about missing persons and burial sites, and it maintains close contacts with families of the disappeared.

The commission trains people who document information about burial sites, which is shared with the Unit for the Search of Missing Persons, the state institution in charge of addressing the issue of missing persons.

Andreas Forer, the director of ICMP’s Colombia program, said the commission’s contributed to the country’s efforts to find the missing. “Accounting for the missing is an investment in peace and stability,” he said. “In this way, FARC’s Commission for the Search of Disappeared Persons contributes to a better future for Colombia, as do all actors involved in the search for the missing.”