World Bulletin / News Desk
“Colombia has more people missing than all the ones registered during the dictatorship years in the Southern Cone. The amount of people missing in Colombia could fill two football stadiums,” said the organization, which is dedicated to preserving the memory of an armed conflict that left hundreds of thousands of victims.
On the occasion of the International Day of the Victims of Forced Disappearances, which was observed Thursday, the NCHM made public that the armed conflict in Colombia left 80,514 people missing between 1958 and 2018.
The report said 63.6 percent of the forced disappearances occurred in 135 of the country’s 1,122 municipalities.
The center further explained that 79,288 of the missing were civilians while 1,220 cases were former combatants. It also said it lacks information on six disappearances.
Paramilitary groups, guerrilla groups and armed groups formed after the mass demobilization as well as state actors were the main causers of these disappearances, according to the report.
The NCHM highlighted that each disappearance caused a “tear in the fabric” of the country’s society and that the numbers only reflect a small part of the pain experienced by thousands of families in Colombia.
“Forced disappearances are accompanied by events that magnify the pain and horror -- society’s indifference to the occurrences being one of them.”
The organization said as a way to remember the country’s missing persons, the “Peace Forests” initiative was launched, which will see a tree planted for each one of them.
The first ‘peace forest’ was planted in the Thomas van der Hammen Natural Reserve in the country’s capital, Bogotá, where the trees planted are surrounded by a path in the shape of Colombia’s outline.
“Some of the trees there represent the missing persons of Puerto Torres, located in Caqueta Department, where 36 people were tortured, assassinated and disappeared between 2001 and 2002. As of 2018, only 12 of the missing have been identified, according to the NCHM.
Colombia created the Search Unit for Presumed Disappeared Persons (UBPD) after a peace agreement was reached between the government and the FARC guerrillas. The demobilized guerrilla members promised to compensate the families of the victims of these disappearances.
“Forced disappearances have been a practice that, through this long conflict, has caused anguish and suffering to thousands of families that don’t know where their loved ones are,” Luz Marina Monzon, director of the UBPD, said in a press release.
Monzon made an appeal to Colombian society, urging it to “support, help and contribute” in the search process of all people that remain missing.