ICMP Supports Missing Persons Dialogue in Colombia

Bogotá, 26 August 2019: The International Commission on Missing Persons (ICMP) will participate in the 2nd “Meeting for the Truth”, organized over the next three days in Pasto, in southern Colombia, by the Truth Commission and the Search Unit of Persons Listed as Disappeared.

This follows three preparatory events organized by the Truth Commission and the Search Unit of Persons Listed as Disappeared with the Support of ICMP, between 10 and 14 August in Villavicencio, Barrancabermeja and Medellín.

ICMP’s Colombia Program, which is funded by the European Union, was launched at the beginning of this year. It is actively engaged in helping stakeholders to sustain an effective long-term strategy to account for more than 85,000 persons who are missing as a result of the conflict. ICMP’s mandate under the 2016 Peace Agreement is to support the technical capacity of the Search Unit for Missing Persons and to strengthen the capacity of civil society to participate in the efforts of the Search Unit.

The Truth Commission and the Search Unit with the support of ICMP designed the three preparatory meetings, which were part of a series of six events held ahead of the Meeting for Truth. The theme of the three-day meeting that begins today is “Recognition of the persistence of family members and women searching for missing persons”.

At the preparatory meetings, women, relatives of the missing, and organizations that search for the missing shared experiences, challenges, and explored methodologies and activities that can be employed in a sustainable and effective missing persons process. The preparatory meetings recognized the leadership and determination of women, which is key since the majority of those who disappeared are men. This means that women survivors have to struggle in order to assert their rights to truth, to justice, reparation and no repetition.

A key objective of the preparatory meetings has been to ensure that at this week’s discussion in Pasto, all parts of the country are represented, and challenges and proposals raised by different communities and family organizations are discussed.

Speaking at the preparatory event in Medellin, Jesús Emilio Tuberquía of the Peace Community of San José de Apartadó, (in the northern region of Urabá) said the community had launched search efforts on their own as they have not so far received adequate official support. The community is one of several in Colombia that maintained the maximum possible neutrality during the conflict. “We have found several of our companions who were killed, but we are still looking for 17 people,” he said. “The preparatory event has been important because of the public visibility.” However, he said he does not at this stage believe that very much will change.

For María Elena Toro of the Mothers of La Candelaria, who also spoke at the Medellin meeting, “the armed conflict in Antioquia has had a huge impact, and it is important for citizens to know that there are women who are working on this issue.”

Ana Yahira Murcia of the Adopaz organization in the Meta Department in central Colombia said the preparatory meetings were important “because they were an opportunity to explain to people who do not know about the search strategy, the steps that are being taken in Meta.”

The hashtag for this week’s meeting is #ReconocemosSuBúsqueda. The Twitter account of the Search Unit is @Ubpdbusquedadesaparecidos and the Twitter account of the Truth Commission is @ComisionVerdadC, in which the event will be presented by Streaming.

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 in Colombia, recommending provisions on the protection of genetic data, establishment of a national DNA database, collection and processing of reference samples, protection of unidentified remains at cemeteries, provision for symbolic reparation to the families of the missing, mapping of sites of clandestine burial, and financial support to families to be able to participate at handover and burial ceremonies.

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.