ICMP Presentation Commemorates Missing Persons in Colombia

The Hague, 15 July 2021: The International Commission on Missing Persons (ICMP) has inaugurated an online digital presentation, which was presented this week in Bogota and at ICMP’s Headquarters in The Hague. The presentation features personal artefacts donated to ICMP by families of the missing in Colombia. The launch was part of an event hosted by ICMP to mark the completion of the first phase of its Colombia Program. The artistic intervention was developed by Creative Court, a Hague-based organization that works at the interface of art and global justice.

Participants at the event highlighted the indispensable role being played by families of the missing in Colombia, and the importance of effective commemoration.

“Families are central to the process of accounting for their missing loved ones and their initiatives to commemorate their relatives remind us of the same shared struggle,’ ICMP Director-General Kathryne Bomberger said. ‘This event focuses on the importance of memory and commemoration; it honors the courage of missing persons and their families as they persevere in securing their rights. The missing persons issue in Colombia is complex, and the stories and symbolic objects of families of the missing remind us that the conflict has had wide-ranging individual and social effects. Disappearances affect everyone, and the solutions must reflect the needs of all.’ 

‘There is still work to be done,’ said Ms. Maria Rosa Sabbatelli, Head of the Americas Section of the EU FPI-Regional Team. She said the European Union supports the advocacy of families and civil society organizations, and strategies that set out to account for the missing regardless of their background or role in the conflict.  “These symbolic objects represent the struggle, the aspirations, and the love of families of the missing from Colombia,” she said. “This exhibition highlights the need to continue efforts to learn the stories – the names, dreams and hopes – of all those who went missing.”

At the core of this week’s event, Creative Court presented a series of images, in which the symbolic objects were placed in a wooded recreational area close to the center of The Hague. Photographer Ana Nuñez Rodríguez deployed a variety of angles, colors and compositions to create a permanent record.

Representatives of families and CSOs said they found the presentation extremely moving, some pointing out that the language of art accentuates the need for solidarity with missing persons and their families. Many said the photographs featured in the exhibition expressed their own feelings and evoked the memory of missing relatives.

Ms Bomberger reiterated ICMP’s support for civil society organizations (CSOs) in Colombia that are working on the issue of missing persons and she said ICMP would continue supporting initiatives to bring families and CSOs together to maintain effective advocacy.

The Search Unit for Persons Listed as Missing, established following the 2016 Peace Agreement in Colombia, cites a figure of 120,000 missing from five decades of conflict in the country.

ICMP first became engaged in Colombia in 2007 following a request by the Prosecutor’s Office. Between 2008 and 2010, ICMP contributed to public policy documents and legislation on missing persons. It was invited by the parties to the 2016 Peace Agreement to help establish the Search Unit of Persons Listed as Missing. In line with this mandate, through the first phase of its Colombia Program, supported by the German Corporation for International Cooperation (GIZ) and the European Union, ICMP has helped the authorities and other stakeholders to make rapid and substantive progress, strengthening the Search Unit and facilitating the work of CSOs.

In December 2019, representatives of Colombian families and CSOs visited ICMP Headquarters, where they shared lessons from their own experience. At the conclusion of this visit, the families entrusted ICMP with the objects that are presented at the presentation.


About ICMP

ICMP is a treaty-based international organization with Headquarters in The Hague, the Netherlands. Its mandate is to secure the cooperation of governments and others in locating missing persons from conflict, human rights abuses, disasters, organized crime, irregular migration and other causes and to assist them in doing so. It is the only international organization tasked exclusively to work on the issue of missing persons.