The Hague, the Netherlands, 21 June 2021 – A recent proposal from 19 civil society organizations based in Antioquia, Colombia, that offers a roadmap for coordinating institutions involved in the search for victims of enforced disappearances is a welcome initiative that should be acted upon so that missing persons are found, the Director-General of the International Commission for Missing Persons, Kathryne Bomberger, said today.
The proposal includes a draft decree to create a Working Group on Enforced Disappearances from Antioquia Department that would delineate roles and responsibilities among the involved institutions. The organizations delivered the proposal to regional and national authorities including the Antioquia governor, the Medellin mayor and the regional prosecutor’s office, as well as national institutions including the Unit for the Search for Missing Persons (UBPD).
“Colombia has legal and institutional frameworks in place for efforts to account for its many missing persons. Coordination is another key component of effective missing-persons systems, and ICMP therefore supports this initiative as it provides for much-needed family participation,” Bomberger said. “We encourage Antioquia authorities and the UBPD to act on the proposal and take advantage of the willingness of associations of families and human rights defenders to contribute to the restoration of the rights of missing persons. Families must be recognized as victims and bearers of rights to truth, justice and reparation.”
The proposal is the result of a consultation process among social movements belonging to the Departmental Roundtable on Enforced Disappearance, the National Movement of Victims of State Crimes – MOVICE Antioquia chapter, as well as the Legal Liberty Corporation (CJL). ICMP supported the consultations through a project financed by the European Union.
The proposal and draft decree seek to establish an Inter-Institutional Roundtable dedicated to the issue of disappearance with the support of other entities such as the Mayor’s Office of Medellin and the Regional Prosecutor’s Office.
The proposed Working Group would include all involved institutions and provide space for coordination and consultation on decision-making with civil society. It would work to strengthen the implementation of the UBPD’s Search Plan by focusing on prevention, family participation, the unification of records and strategies for recent cases.
Adriana Arboleda, a member of Corporación Jurídica Libertad, one the organizations behind the proposal, said the initiative aimed to coordinate the efforts of a large number of institutions with complementary mandates on missing persons in the country: “The institutions must stop competing and create joint work plans focused on finding the victims and on guaranteeing the rights of the families that have been searching for their loved ones for years,” she said.
In another development earlier this month, Antioquia-based civil society organizations delivered proposed guidelines for the realization and implementation of a local Search Plan for the metropolitan area of Medellin to the UBPD, which committed to initiating broader consultations with other sectors of civil society in order to speed up the search process.
Antioquia, according to the Observatory of the National Center for Historical Memory, is one of the departments with the highest number of cases of forced disappearance in Colombia, accounting for 20,279 cases between 1958 and 2016. Civil society organizations say the number of disappearances has increased since the signing of the Peace Agreement in 2016.
ICMP is a treaty-based intergovernmental organization based in The Hague, the Netherlands. Its mandate is to secure the cooperation of governments and other authorities in locating persons missing as a result of conflicts, human rights abuses, disasters, organized violence and other causes and to assist them in doing so.