The Director-General of the International Commission on Missing Persons (ICMP), Kathryne Bomberger, today welcomed the announcement of a definitive agreement between the Government of Colombia and the Fuerzas Armadas Revolucionarias de Colombia–Ejército del Pueblo (FARC-EP) to end five decades of armed conflict. The final agreement recognizes the rights of victims of the conflict, including the rights of families of the missing and disappeared.
“The conclusion of the negotiations is a historic step on Colombia’s long and difficult road to peace,” Ms. Bomberger said. “ICMP is committed to working with families of the missing, the authorities and others in Colombia to ensure that the issue of missing persons is addressed in an effective, inclusive, sustainable and just manner.”
The elements of the agreement that deal with the issue of missing persons assign a specific role to ICMP, which is tasked with providing recommendations on establishing a Search Unit to account for those who have gone missing as a result of the conflict. ICMP could also provide input on international best practice and facilitate the work of the Search Unit and any other related institutions as required.
Wednesday’s agreement, reached after four years of negotiations, will be the subject of a referendum to be held on 2 October 2016.
“Families of the missing participated in the talks in Havana, and the final agreement provides for mechanisms to address the issue of tens of thousands of missing. This must be done systematically, efficiently and within a clear legal and legislative framework,” Ms. Bomberger said, “and ICMP stands ready to work with the authorities in Colombia and with civil society to ensure that this happens. It is essential for the consolidation of peace.”
ICMP has been engaged in assisting Colombian authorities to account for missing persons since 2008 when following a request from the authorities, it presented the government with a comprehensive assessment of what was needed in order to launch and maintain an effective missing persons program. ICMP supported the work of the Colombian National Search Commission and it assisted in the compilation of the first official public report in Colombia on the issue of enforced disappearance, published in 2009. ICMP also helped to create the first Colombian policy document on forced disappearance, in 2009 (CONPES 3590), and it greatly contributed to drafting Law 1408, of 2010, under which a unified database for DNA-based identifications of missing persons was established. ICMP has also trained Colombian scientists in DNA techniques.
ICMP is now preparing to provide technical assistance to the government in the implementation of the peace agreement, which includes the adoption of necessary legislative measures, institution building, and ensuring availability of information systems to collect, manage, analyze and protect data that is critical to accounting for missing persons.
“ICMP’s objective is to help Colombia develop a long-term and sustainable strategy to address the issue of missing persons, including providing access to ICMP’s Identification Database Management System (iDMS) and Online Information Center (OIC). These are practical tools that can significantly enhance the search for missing persons,” Ms Bomberger said. She added that ICMP will seek to work directly with families of the missing in Colombia to ensure that they can make their voice heard in the process of establishing new institutions and laws to account for the missing and in making provision for appropriate memorialization of those who disappeared during the conflict.
ICMP’s mandate is to secure the co-operation of governments and other authorities in locating and identifying persons missing as a result of armed conflicts, human rights abuses, disasters and other causes and to assist them in doing so. ICMP also supports the work of other organizations in their efforts, encourages public involvement in its activities and contributes to the development of appropriate expressions of commemoration and tribute to the missing.