ICMP Helps Partners in Bolívar and Sucre, Colombia, Collect Data from Families of the Missing  

By Mariana Lersundy

In Cartagena on 29 and 30 October, the International Commission on Missing Persons (ICMP), together with the Nydia Erika Bautista Foundation for Human Rights and with the support of Legal Medicine, and the Attorney General’s Office, documented cases of missing persons and took genetic reference samples from relatives of the disappeared. This will contribute to account for the missing.

The Foundation invited relatives of the disappeared from the departments of Bolívar and Sucre, who are already associated with the Foundation or with the Mujer Sigue mis Pasos and Narrar para Vivir organizations, to provide information: for example, where the person was last seen; what they were wearing, or whether they have any distinguishing marks. Officials of the Institute of Legal Medicine took a small blood sample from which DNA will be extracted. This can be compared to DNA stored in databases containing DNA profiles taken from unidentified human remains.

Representatives of the Victims Unit, the National Institute of Legal Medicine and Forensic Sciences, and the Attorney General’s Office took part in the event. They explained how genetic samples are used to identify victims and how personal information can help to locate and identify those who have disappeared.

Andreas Forer, the Head of ICMP’s Program in Colombia, stressed that “when family members contribute their DNA, they are contributing to the identification of their relatives”. He added that ICMP’s experience in other parts of the world shows that families must be at the center of any successful and sustainable missing persons process.

During the event, ICMP’s Civil Society Initiatives team explained to participants how ICMP is helping families of the missing in Colombia. The team also offered an overview of the agencies that are responsible for upholding their right of families of the missing to truth, justice and reparation.

After providing blood samples and information on specific cases, participants took part in a “collective memory” exercise, in which family members spoke about the life and personal characteristics of missing loved ones.

ICMP’s Colombia Program is funded by the European Union. It was launched at the beginning of this year and is actively engaged in supporting the UBPD and Colombian Civil Society Organizations, including families of the missing develop a sustainable strategy to account for more than 82,000 persons who are missing as a result of the conflict.

ICMP is a treaty-based intergovernmental 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.