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Committee on Enforced Disappearances considers report of Colombia

The Committee on Enforced Disappearances today considered the initial report of Colombia on its implementation of the provisions of the International Convention on the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearance. 

Beatriz Londoño Soto, Permanent Representative of Colombia to the United Nations Office at Geneva, presenting the report, said that the National Commission for the Search of the Disappeared was set up with the participation of civil society; the Office of the Attorney General and the National Institute of Forensic Medicine were at the forefront in the use of technologies allowing the efficient identification of remains.  The National Plan for the Search of Disappeared Persons established the compulsory methodology that judicial authorities must follow in the search for the disappeared, and its main objective was to find the disappeared person alive, or deliver the remains to the family so that they could grieve in accordance with their customs and beliefs.  Further efforts were needed in consolidating information on victims, and developing the capacity of the judiciary not only to provide remedy to victims but also to ensure the guarantee of non-repetition.

In the dialogue that followed, Committee Experts wondered about the number and classification of disappeared persons, noting that a disappearance was registered as enforced only upon a court ruling.  A number of bodies were involved in search and investigation activities and the Experts wondered about the coordination mechanism in place to ensure that they supported each other’s efforts.  In the same vein, the prosecution of a crime was fragmented across several areas, which had a negative impact on the success of the search, investigation and prosecution of perpetrators.  Experts took note of the Law on Justice and Peace and asked about the results and outcomes of the policies to ensure truth, justice and reparation to victims.  Other issues they inquired about included the classification of enforced disappearances as a crime against humanity, the statute of limitations applicable to the act, legal provisions addressing the involvement of State officials as well as the chain of command, and the reasons explaining the very low number of prosecutions for the crime.

Luciano Hazan, Committee Expert and Co-Rapporteur for Colombia, in his concluding remarks, commended the efforts of the National Institute of Forensic Medicine to identify the remains, and the decrease in the number of disappearances, and hoped that many of the measures contained in the peace agreement would continue or would be initiated regardless of the fate of the agreement.

In her concluding remarks, Ms. Londoño Soto reaffirmed that victims had the right and the State had the duty to ensure the trust and confidence in institutions, which would eradicate the scourge of enforced disappearances.  Despite Sunday’s referendum results, there was a firm belief that Colombia would soon be a country of peace.

The delegation of Colombia included representatives of the National Forensic Institute, Ministry of Justice, Presidential Counselling Office for Human Rights, and the Permanent Mission of Colombia to the United Nations Office at Geneva.

Live webcast of the Committee’s public meetings is available at http://webtv.un.org/

The Committee will next meet at 10 a.m. on Friday, 7 October, to hold separate meetings with States parties to the International Convention for the Protection of all Persons from Enforced Disappearance; with national human rights institutions and non-governmental organizations; and with the United Nations agencies and mechanisms and international organizations.

Report


The initial report of Colombia can be read here: CED/C/COL/1.

Presentation of the Report


BEATRIZ LONDOÑO SOTO, Permanent Representative of Colombia to the United Nations Office at Geneva, said that the scope of enforced disappearances reflected the dynamic of the 50-year-long conflict in Colombia.  The Government had called upon all sectors of the society to find the path to peace and said that regardless of the results of the referendum on the peace agreement, the ceasefire agreement was still in force.  There must be consolidation of the information on the totality of victims, and Colombia did have a national registry for the disappeared which was an inter-institutional mechanism which contained information on persons disappeared since 1938.  Colombia had allowed the genetic profile database to be put in place; this database assisted the judiciary and the relatives of victims.  Victims were at the centre of all the efforts and Colombia was very sensitive to the suffering of their families and relatives.  That was why comprehensive efforts were being undertaken to search for the disappeared and provide remedy to victims.  The National Commission for the Search of the Disappeared had been set up with the participation of civil society, which was also a venue where the creation of public policies was promoted.  The urgent search mechanisms sought to ensure immediate reaction by authorities without delay.  Colombia had further developed its technical capacities to search and identify the remains: the technical abilities of the Attorney General and the National Institute of Forensic Medicine were at the forefront in the use of technologies allowing the efficient identification of remains, guided by the procedures and standards set in the Minnesota Protocol.  One such example was the Bank of Genetic Profiles which contained more than 25 million profiles of family members which would help in the identification of remains.

The efforts to search and identify the disappeared were accompanied with those to alleviate extreme emotional pain and anguish of the relatives.  Colombia had adopted several laws which ensured that families and relatives had access to social benefits and protection, including the adoption in 2012 of Law 1513 which had allowed the declaration of absence by disappearance.  It was an important progress in the definition of the legal status of the missing and lightened the burden on the relatives as a result of that terrible event.  In order to ensure access to justice, Colombia had broadened the codification of the crime of enforced disappearances to ensure that it fully incorporated articles 2 and 3 of the Convention.  The Criminal Code provided for punishment of any person committing the act, and the participation of State officials and agents was an aggravating circumstance.  The National Plan for the Search of Disappeared Persons established the compulsory methodology that judicial authorities must follow in the search for the disappeared.  The main objective was to find the disappeared person alive, or deliver the remains to the family so that they could grieve in accordance with their customs and beliefs.  Key challenges that lay ahead were to consolidate information systems to provide reliable information not only on the victims but also circumstances of their disappearances; and ensuring that the judiciary had the capacity not only to provide remedy to victims but also to ensure the guarantee of non-repetition.  Colombia was determined to forge ahead in full compliance of the human rights of disappeared persons and their family members.  The full implementation of the International Convention for the Protection of all Persons from Enforced Disappearance was one of the guarantees of the protection of Colombians from enforced disappearances.

Questions from the Committee Experts


RAINER HUHLE, Committee Expert and Rapporteur for Colombia, said that the future of Colombia was full of uncertainty, including in relation to the implementation of the Convention, and this meeting was taking place in very specific circumstances for the country.  With regards to the search for the disappeared, the Rapporteur asked about the intentions of Colombia to ratify article 31 of the Convention on individual communications, and the tangible experience of urgent actions to search for the disappeared, including measures that could be taken to ensure more swift search and better outcomes.  What was the role of the National Commission for the Search of the Disappeared in urgent searches, particularly as they were a mediation rather than a strictly operational body – what possibilities were there for the Commission to play a more tangible role in urgent searches?  What other mechanisms were in place to search for persons and care for victims; would Colombia keep those mechanisms in the future, or would it start afresh?  

Mr. Huhle inquired about the coordination mechanism in place and the measures taken to ensure that search and investigation efforts carried out by different bodies supported each other, rather than stood in each other’s way, and also asked whether the information in the national registry of disappeared was segregated by type of disappearance, particularly as there were differences in the classification of forced disappearances and other kinds of disappearances.  Further, it seemed that in Colombia a disappearance could be classified as an enforced disappearance only if a court ruling had been handed down.  There were more than 4,000 open cases of disappearances, and only 500 court rulings.  Could the delegation explain the classification of disappearances, the figures in different data banks and registrars, and whether Colombia intended to unify all those into one unified registry and information system? 

LUCIANO HAZAN, Committee Expert and Co-Rapporteur for Colombia, took up the issue of State participation in enforced disappearances and noted that in Colombia, sanctions for cases of enforced disappearances in the strict sense were higher – what was the formal position of the State on this issue.  Concerning the classification of enforced disappearances as a crime against humanity, the Co-Rapporteur noted that there was no specific provision that criminalized the act as such and noting that the Rome Statute was a part of the domestic legal system, asked about the legal effects it could have in specific cases.  What was the current status of the draft Law 18 of 2012 which was seeking to do away with the statute of limitation of war crimes?  Concerning judicial proceedings, the Co-Rapporteur took note of the Law on Justice and Peace and asked about the results and outcomes of the policies to ensure truth, justice and reparation to victims.  Dealing with cases of disappearances was fragmented across several areas of prosecution, which might have a negative impact on the results of the search for disappeared persons, investigations and sentencing of perpetrators.  The number of disappearances was very high, while the number of those sanctioned was very low; in addition, no member of the armed forces or of the guerrillas had been sanctioned.  

Mr. Hazan asked about the access that the officials in charge of investigations had to State archives, and especially archives of State security and intelligence forces and units; their archives - especially secret archives - could contain valuable information not only for search, investigations and prosecution, but also in providing the right to truth.  The Committee had received information about areas of weakness inwitness and victim protection and allegations of threats, intimidation, harassment and violence, including against human rights defenders and judicial officers.  In some cases, it took up to three months to evaluate threats, and the scope of protective measures was rather limited and usually involved moving people to other towns. 

Another Expert noted the position of the Committee which was in favour of excluding military jurisdiction in cases of enforced disappearances and asked the delegation about the situation in Colombia and whether the involvement or interference of the military or the police was prevented from preliminary stages of inquiry, in order to protect evidence and witnesses. 

Experts noted that Colombia was obliged by the decisions of the Inter-American Court of Human Rights to investigate cases of enforced disappearances and asked the delegation to comment on the lack of information on those cases, and also to comment on the establishment of military jurisdiction in areas of hostilities.

There had been 114,000 cases of disappearances since 1938.  Could the delegation clarify the statistics, particularly concerning the number of cases involving State officials, and those involving various armed groups and non-State actors?  What measures were being taken to ensure the right of non-repetition?

SANTIAGO CORCUERA CABEZUT, Committee Chairperson, was concerned about codification and asked about legislative and executive measures taken to implement the recommendation made by the Working Group on Enforced Disappearances, to modify the Criminal Code to ensure that State actors were not being mixed with non-State actors.

Response by the Delegation


A delegate took up the question concerning the definition of enforced disappearances and said that Colombia made sure that all elements of enforced disappearances as per the Convention were included in criminal charges, and said that the perpetrator, according to the law, could be anyone, including State officials.  The definition of the perpetrator was very broad and this was done expressly in order to ensure that a whole range of individuals who committed the act were included.  The approach to the crime was much broader than in the Convention, as it took into account the fact that perpetrators were not only State agents but private individuals.  There were no intentions to amend this criminal notion of the perpetrator.

With regards to the lack of a statute of limitations on enforced disappearances, a delegate emphasized that in Colombia, crimes against humanity did benefit from a statute of limitations, which was based on the jurisprudence.  Enforced disappearances were considered a crime against humanity pursuant to the Rome Statute and when the conditions were met, such as when it was systematic.  If the act of enforced disappearance was not a crime against humanity, the statute of limitations was set at 30 years.  The notion of hierarchical responsibility as defined by the Rome Statute was transposed in the national law, particularly as part of the justice and peace proceedings and the focus was on establishing the responsibility of the leadership.  Since the 2014 Constitutional Court ruling, there had been no significant reform of military courts, said the delegate and stressed that military courts did not have the competence to investigate or judge war crimes and crimes against humanity, including enforced disappearances.

The Justice and Peace Law had led to some changes in the investigation of crimes of enforced disappearances: since 2012, there had been important changes to Law 975 with regards to the investigation, judgement and sanctioning of crimes committed by outlawed armed groups, including enforced disappearances.  Further, the focus was on establishing the responsibility of leadership and ensuring prosecution and sanctioning of leaders; also, measures were taken to speed up investigations and as a result, there were more cases and more individuals who had been investigated and prosecuted.  Under the Justice and Peace Law, victims could bring evidence and participate in proceedings, and their right to truth, justice and reparations was in the focus.  This resulted in a mind-shift to restorative justice in Colombia.  

There was no legal provision which would oblige a prosecutor to assign a case to any particular unit, the allocation of cases was at the discretion of the prosecutor.  Colombia took good note of the Experts’ comment concerning a fragmented approach to investigations in the Office of the Prosecutor.

In terms of access of the judiciary and investigative authorities to the State archives, a delegate explained that the Intelligence Act provided for access to intelligence archives for the judicial authorities without reservations.  There were complaints by victims about barriers in accessing those archives; a delegate stressed that legally there should be no barriers, and that Colombia should take note of this issue.

The National Forensic Institute managed the National Registry for the Disappeared, and there were other institutions in the country which maintained their own registers and collated data in their own way, including the register of disappeared maintained by the Office of the Prosecutor.  Some 18 months ago, the National Commission for the Search started the process of unifying all those different registers into a centralized one, discussing different classifications, and eliminating duplicate entries.  The Institute believed  that the number of disappeared was greatly under-reported, first because of lack trust in the institutions by the population affected by the conflict, secondly because of fear of reprisals, and third, simply because they did not want to report a disappeared person. 

The urgent search mechanism, operational since 2007, could be triggered by anyone who had first-hand knowledge about a disappearance - judicial authorities, police, mayors, municipal authorities, legal representatives of individuals, or anyone else.  They would inform the office of the prosecutor who would launch an urgent search.  The mechanism was not perfect and more work needed to be done to raise awareness about its existence and to improve channels of communication.  To date, 1,607 urgent searches had been conducted, but the actual number of disappearances was higher than that.  

The challenges for the National Forensic Institute included the need to improve the National Registry for the Disappeared, and increase resources needed for the work on the identification of remains, including molecular and genetic analysis and the maintenance of the Genetic Data Bank.

The Single Victims Registry Database fell under the Law on Victims and Restitution; the inclusion in the Registry did not require a criminal dimension, or the initiation of proceedings by a prosecutor.  All it took was for the family of victims to make the statement and declare the damage suffered.  The Registry had 174,000 direct and indirect victims, and it sought to create linkages with the National Registry for the Disappeared and ensure the consolidation and unification of data. 

The primary reasons for which Colombia had not yet accepted the competence of the Committee under article 31 on individual communications were because it was waiting for the completion of the legislative and institutional reforms it was undertaking in order to meet the obligations under the Convention, and also because its national institutions had the capacity to deal with the issue.

Follow-up Questions by the Committee Experts


LUCIANO HAZAN, Committee Expert and Co-Rapporteur for Colombia, expressed concern that enforced disappearances continued in Colombia, in some cases with strong involvement of State officials and political parties.  One such case was in Buona Ventura, Mr. Hazan noted and asked about the measures taken to identify victims and prosecute those responsible.  It was fundamental to ensure that victims had trust in the victim protection system – what measures were being taken in this regard?  How did the Criminal Code address the issue of criminal responsibility of the chain of command?  The Co-Rapporteur was under the impression that the participation of victims was broadened in civil cases, but wondered about the state of affairs in criminal cases, and also the participation of victims in the National Commission for the Search of the Disappeared.

RAINER HUHLE, Committee Expert and Rapporteur for Colombia, asked about the number of disappearances in recent years, and the number of urgent searches that had led to successful results. 

Committee Experts asked for more concrete responses on the intentions of Colombia in relation to article 31 and article 32 on competences of the Committee to receive communications; the responsibility of State agents for enforced disappearances committed by them directly or with their acquiescence; and the number of enforced disappearances attributed to State agents, and those attributed to non-State actors.

SANTIAGO CORCUERA CABEZUT, Committee Chairperson, asked whether the court rulings on enforced disappearances as a crime had been issued before or after the ratification of the International Convention for the Protection of all Persons from Enforced Disappearance.

Response by the Delegation


Responding, a delegate said that one of the most important rulings that referred to the phenomenon of enforced disappearances had been in 2002, prior to Colombia’s ratification of the Convention.  The Constitutional Court ruling 370 was very emphatic about the participation of victims in court rulings; victim participation occurred throughout the whole process and victims were considered one of the parties in court proceedings.  It would be hard to say now how certain issues related to truth, justice and peace would be handled in the future, particularly in the light of the referendum on the peace agreement.  

One of the measures to increase confidence in the authorities and thus increase reporting of cases of disappearances was to raise the awareness of families and relatives on the need to report disappearances, informing them that they could submit the information on disappeared persons to the National Institute of Forensic Medicine without the need to start criminal proceedings.  The number of disappeared had dropped since the 1998-2002 period, during which 34,000 cases had been reported.  

As for the Buona Ventura cases, three persons had disappeared and had been dismembered; the responsible had been brought to justice and the involvement of organized crimes had been established as well as the evidence of some religious practices including Satanic practices.  Further to the situation in Buona Ventura, a delegate explained that since 2013, activities on addressing organized criminal gangs in and around Buona Ventura had been taking place, as a result of which 516 persons allegedly belonging to crime gangs had been arrested and many weapons had been seized; 260 judicial procedures had been initiated targeting those criminal groups.

Questions by the Committee Experts


LUCIANO HAZAN, Committee Expert and Co-Rapporteur for Colombia, said that the Committee had received information and complaints about a lot of red tape in the implementation of the National Plan for the Search for Missing Persons and the identification of remains.  Concerning the peace agreement, Mr. Hazan noted that, regardless of the referendum outcomes, it had set in motion certain mechanisms on the search for persons on the basis of international humanitarian law; he asked if a protocol had been drafted for the implementation of measures and if the policies focusing on victims contained in the peace agreement – which had been agreed with consensus - would be pursued.  The delegation was asked about the inclusion of ante-mortem data such as family genetic data in databases in order to support the search for the missing, and about the number of families that had provided genetic information and been included in the registry; the resources at the disposal of the National Institute of Forensic Medicine to tackle the huge issue of the identification of remains; specific reasons explaining the very low number of returns of identified remains; and how the return was done respectfully.   

The Co-Rapporteur noted that most of the awareness campaigns on search activities focused on urban areas while people in the rural areas did not have as much access to information.  What mechanisms were in place to protect the locations of mass graves in order to protect evidence and ensure that it was not tampered with?  The Committee had received allegations of arrests not being promptly communicated to families in accordance with the law, especially in cases of temporary arrests, which put persons concerned at risk of enforced disappearances.  The National Commission for the Search of the Disappeared had drafted the proposal for the establishment of a unified registry of detainees, but this proposal had not been taken forward – what was the state of play in relation to the registration of all detainees in all places of detention?  The Co-Rapporteur noted the absence of women from the registry of disappeared, the linkages between the crime of enforced disappearances and human trafficking, particularly in cases of women, and the strategies in place to prevent and punish the crime of trafficking in persons.  Had there been any cases in which adoptions had to be annulled because they were the result of enforced disappearances?

RAINER HUHLE, Committee Expert and Rapporteur for Colombia, took up the issue of military justice and the situation with false positives.  He asked if the definition of victims would be brought in line with the Convention, and also asked about the design, implementation, and the number of beneficiaries of the programmes on compensation and reparations.  The National Centre for Historical Memory had published one of the most comprehensive reports on the victims and the Rapporteur wondered whether the Centre would continue this work and how would it collaborate with the Truth Commission which should be established under the terms of the peace agreement.  How many human rights defenders active on issues of enforced disappearances had been affected by violence and crimes, and how were they protected by the State?

A Committee Expert recalled article 16 of the Convention concerning the expulsion of foreigners and asked about the procedures in place, legal provisions pointing to the principle of non-refoulement, and the measures taken to ensure that no person at risk of enforced disappearances was expelled or extradited.  Which diplomatic assurances were provided in cases of extradition?  What steps were being taken to ensure that measures addressing women victims of enforced disappearances, particularly those left behind as heads of families, were gender-sensitive?

Another Expert asked about the registry of patients in psychiatric hospitals and, referring to the prevention of forced disappearances in the prison system, asked how family members were informed about transfers from one prison to another.

The delegation was asked about measures taken to protect human rights defenders from intimidation, reprisals and violence, particularly in the light of the concern expressed by the Human Rights Council about the situation of human rights defenders in Colombia.  With regards to the ethnic dimension of enforced disappearances in Colombia, an Expert stressed the importance of segregated data in the registries for the establishment of the rights of victims.

Response by the Delegation


Responding to questions related to military criminal justice, a delegate said that crimes against humanity, genocide, enforced disappearances and violations of international human rights law and international humanitarian law were exempted from military jurisdiction.  Military courts could only try military disciplinary offences.   As there was no statutory law on conflict of competence between jurisdictions, such conflicts at the moment were decided upon by the Higher Judiciary Council.  

The constitutional principle of habeas corpus underlined the criminal law; accordingly, judicial authorities must be informed of the arrest within 36 hours.  The penitentiary system had a complex and unified system for registering of arrests and detentions.  There were 136 detention centres in the country with 121,000 detainees.  A holistic human rights policy was being implemented to ensure that all officers were aware of the rights of those arrested and that when arrested, people must be informed of their rights.  The legislative agenda did not yet foresee the acceptance of the faculties under article 31 and 32 of the Convention on individual communications, as there was a guaranteed system in the country to deal with those.

Concerning the statistics on missing persons, a delegate said that there were 29,618 minors in the national registry, of whom 2,250 were presumably disappeared; in addition, also registered as missing were 131 civil leaders, 99 political leader, 70 trade union officials, and 43 human rights defenders and leaders.

The Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia—People's Army (FARC) had informed of six disappeared persons, and those remains had been returned to their families.  Concerning the inclusion of family genetic materials in the database of missing persons, a delegate explained that a discussion would take place with the family to identify the member most suitable to give a sample of DNA, and the genetic profile would then be uploaded in the database.  To date, 1,050 remains had been identified thanks to cross-checking the data with genetic profiles.  Most campaigns targeting families to provide genetic samples were focused on urban areas, simply because of resources; at the moment, a large number of genetic samples were available, but the Institute lacked resources for the materials needed to develop genetic profiles.  The identification of remains would trigger the Protocol for Dignified Return.  Immediate measures were taken to protect the locations of mass graves and protect the evidence and the remains; the remains from concealed burial places were taken to one of the 1,300 repositories where measures were taken to prepare them for analysis and identification.

Colombia recognized the important work of human rights defenders and had taken a number of steps to prevent and protect them from violence, persecution and reprisals.  One such mechanism for their protection was the National Bureau for Human Rights Defenders, a tri-partite initiative by the Government, civil society and international organizations set up in 2011.  The National Protection Unit was a special programme providing protection to human rights defenders, and it had in place a risk evaluation committee, which operated in a gender-sensitive manner.  In 2016, considerable investments had been made and 3,500 human rights defenders had been protected this year.

The delegation recognized the important work of the National Centre for Historical Memory in relation to victims of enforced disappearances and said that it was not certain that the Truth Commission as called for in the peace agreement would be established.  There would, however, be a similar institution and there would be a need to think about the mandate and the division of work between the two institutions, whereby the search from the truth would be in the remit of the Truth Commission, while activities on reconciliation would be carried out by the National Centre for Historical Memory.

The Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights had been present in Colombia for 19 years and had worked tirelessly with the Government to build a culture of human rights in the country, and had triggered important alerts which the Government had heeded.  Its mandate in Colombia had been renewed and extended for another three years.  The Office received significant co-financing by Colombia, which was one of the few countries in the world to do so.  

Follow-up Questions by the Committee Experts


RAINER HUHLE, Committee Expert and Rapporteur for Colombia, in follow-up questions asked what could be done to ensure that the urgent search mechanism took action within hours of disappearance rather than weeks or even months.  On the link between search and investigation, the Expert commended the extensive efforts of searching cemeteries for the missing, and noted that this was very labour and resource intensive activity.      

LUCIANO HAZAN, Committee Expert and Co-Rapporteur for Colombia, asked about the age of disappeared youth and children who were registered in the national database and wondered about cases of mistaken identity.  The Committee had received information about a case involving 30 children recruited by a paramilitary group with the support of the army and asked about the progress made in the identification of the remains. 

Another Expert stressed the importance of maintaining a proper register of detained persons and asked the delegation to provide further information on the registers kept in psychiatric centres, juvenile detention centres, migrant centres and places of detention of military personnel.  He commended the efforts of Colombia to move towards a unified registry system for all places of detention as a measure to prevent enforced disappearances in the penitentiary system, and called attention to some irregularities in the registration of temporarily detained persons.

SANTIAGO CORCUERA CABEZUT, Committee Chairperson, took up the declaration of absence because of disappearance and asked about measures taken to ensure better knowledge among the population about this provision of the law, which was very useful for families and relatives of disappeared persons.  Was the judicial system fit and ready to properly implement this provision, and to raise awareness about its availability?  How many persons had requested this declaration of absence and how many times had it been used since the adoption of the law?
 
Replies by the Delegation


In response to questions on the urgent search mechanism, a delegate said that several major difficulties were faced in its implementation.  The major problem was that despite the training provided to civilian and police officers, there were still delays in triggering the urgent search mechanism.  The latest commitment for the Attorney General’s Office was to increase awareness among its staff that action must be triggered immediately and urgently.  On search and identification activities in cemeteries, the delegate said that the major challenge was to identify the location of disappeared people and in 2002 the so-called Cemetery Plan had been initiated and presented to the Attorney General’s Office; the major driver behind the Plan was the Institute which contributed resources for the exhumation of bodies.  

A total of 29,618 disappeared minors had been registered: 527 under the age of four, 1,050 aged five to nine, 11,988 aged 10 to 14, and 16,053 aged 15 to 17.  Of those, 2,250 had been classified as enforced disappearances.  Some of the cases of disappeared children involved forced recruitment, and some were victims of organized crimes – those children usually suffered physical and sexual abuse.

A number of training courses for the judicial staff had been implemented, including on the urgent search mechanism and the identification and return of remains.  The major challenge was the high staff turnover.  Colombia was aware of the problem of recruitment of older children and adolescents in armed groups and had put in place the Inter-sectoral Commission for Preventing the Recruitment and Use of Children in Military Forces to address the issue.   There were three programmes which provided psycho-social care to victims, including victims of enforced disappearances, as per the Victims Act 2011.  The Protocol for Dignified Return of Remains had been drawn in 2014 by the National Commission for the Search for the Disappeared, which called for consultation with the family on the wishes, customs and expectations for dignified return.

Individuals who were not convicted were detained in temporary detention centres, administered by the Attorney General’s Office which ensured access to justice within 24 hours.  Some irregularities were found in those centres and the Constitutional Court had ordered the transfer to prisons of all those who were not supposed to be in temporary detention centres.  In 2012, significant progress in the legislation had been made by creating the declaration of absence; since then, the Commission had carried out training and there were dissemination activities by association of victims and the Red Cross.  Civilian judges were competent in the matter.  

Concluding Remarks


LUCIANO HAZAN, Committee Expert and Co-Rapporteur for Colombia, commended the openness of the delegation in this constructive dialogue and the efforts of Colombia to comply with the provisions of the Convention.  The Committee commended the efforts of the National Institute of Forensic Medicine to identify the remains, and the decrease in the number of disappearances, and hoped that many of the measures contained in the peace agreement would continue or be initiated regardless of the fate of the agreement.  The Committee’s concluding observations would assist Colombia in addressing challenges ahead, the most pressing humanitarian concerns, finding truth for the families and communities, and ensuring reparations.

BEATRIZ  LONDOÑO SOTO, Permanent Representative of Colombia to the United Nations Office at Geneva, expressed the very high regard of Colombia for the work of the Committee and said that this was an exercise conducted in a self-critical fashion.  Victims had the right and the State had the duty to ensure the trust and confidence in institutions, which would eradicate the scourge of enforced disappearances.  Despite Sunday’s referendum results, there was a firm belief that Colombia would soon be a country of peace.

SANTIAGO CORCUERA CABEZUT, Committee Chairperson, thanked the delegation for a truly constructive dialogue and the very real participation in answering the questions raised by the Experts.