Colombia prosecutor reports more than 20,000 forced civilian disappearances

[JURIST] Colombian prosecutor Luis Gonzalez said Monday that at least 27,384 civilians disappeared between 1988 and 2002, with nearly 75 percent of them allegedly kidnapped by illegal right-wing militias. The government's judicial Justice and Peace Office [official website, in Spanish] compiled the list after a three-year investigation of forced disappearances that included testimonies of the relatives of the missing persons. Under the 2005 Justice and Peace law [AI backgrounder, JURIST report], more than 25,000 militants have demobilized, confessed to murders, and led officials to the graves of 2,300 Colombians. Despite having collected medical and dental records during the investigation, Gonzalez said it is still unclear [Caracol Radio report, in Spanish] how many bodies have been recovered.

The controversial Justice and Peace law has been criticized [JURIST report] for giving lesser punishments to paramilitary leaders who voluntarily disarm. Last year, Colombian President Alvaro Uribe [official profile, in Spanish] urged [JURIST report] Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) [CFR backgrounder] guerrillas to abandon arms and release political hostages, promising those who respond to the call a reward and freedom. A recent UN fact-finding mission in Colombia uncovered [JURIST report] evidence of ongoing and widespread human rights violations. Paramilitaries have been fighting the Colombian armed conflict [BBC backgrounder] since the 1960s.

 

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