Thursday, July 25, 2013

Memories of War and Dignity: Report on victims of Colombia's conflict

This post was written by CIP intern Victor Salcedo

On Wednesday, Colombia’s Historical Memory Center (Grupo de Memoria Historica) published a report on the number of conflict-related deaths and violent actions that have occurred in Colombia in the past 55 years. The 431-page document was the result of a five-year investigation that revealed some alarming statistics about kidnappings, deaths, and massacres carried out during the past five decades. The report, “¡Basta ya! Colombia: memorias de guerra y de dignidad,” (“Enough Already! Memories of War and Dignity”) can be download on the Historical Memory Center’s website."

This reports comes in the midst of ongoing peace negotiations with the FARC. Upon receiving the report, President Santos said it was a “first window towards the truth that we owe to the victims of this country.”

Some key findings from the report:

  • The report found that in total, 220,000 Colombians were killed between 1958 and 2013. Of that number, 176,000 were civilians -- a ratio of eight civilians for every ten deaths, or about 80 percent.
  • Since 1981, paramilitaries have been the biggest perpetrators of violence. In the past three decades, there were 1,983 massacres, which have cost the lives of more than 400 children. The paramilitaries were responsible in 59% of the cases, the guerrillas in 17%, and state officials in 8% of the cases. Victims were 60% farmers, 10% workers, and 30% traders.
  • Between 1985 and 2012, 26 people were displaced per hour. The number of people displaced by the fighting – 4.7 million — represents almost the entire population of Ireland, Costa Rica or Lebanon.
  • There were 23,154 assassinations between 1981 and 2012. In 16.8% of the cases the guerrillas were the ones responsible, while in 10% of the cases the police force carried out the assassinations.
  • The majority of kidnappings, around 27,000, between 1970 and 2010, were carried out by the FARC. Between 1996 and 2002, there were 16,040 kidnappings. Of those, the FARC were responsible for 8,578 and the ELN for 7,462. Kidnappings have occurred in 919 municipalities across the country.
  • Colombia has the second-highest number of landmine victims in the world, after Afghanistan: 10,189.
  • 5,000 reported cases of forced disappearances. Out of that number, only 689 cases were solved.
  • As Colombia Reports noted, Gonzalo Sánchez, director of the Historical Memory Center said in an interview with Colombian newspaper El Tiempo:

    “We propose that the State take the lead. The State says it would not recognize anything until the crime is proven in the highest appeal. But if we are reconstructing what has happened and if we believe the victims, we must ask for forgiveness. This is a mechanism that facilitates the peace process.”

    He added that the “biggest sin of the State” was to “fight the war without fighting the causes.”

    The El Tiempo interview can be found here, an El Espectador article expanding on the report’s findings can be found here, and an English summary of the report can be found on the Colombia Reports website. Colombian magazine Semana has a selection of quotes organized by topic and an accompanying article.