Vanessa Kritzer at the Latin America Working Group called my attention to their new report, Breaking the Silence: In Search of Colombia's Disappeared.
As of November 2010, Colombia’s official government statistics list over 51,000 disappearances, a figure that includes missing persons who may be alive, while the Attorney General’s office speaks of over 32,000 “forced disappearances.” More than 1130 new cases of forced disappearance have been officially registered in the last three years. However, the full total remains unknown. Many cases have yet to be entered in the database, and many disappearances are not registered at all. Earlier claims by associations of families of the disappeared of some 15,000 forced disappearances, far from being an overestimation, now look to have vastly undercounted the tragedy’s enormous scope.
It is entirely positive that the government is taking the issue seriously, though obviously sobering that doing so actually reveals the problems to be even worse than previously believed. Even knowing how violent Colombian has been, those numbers are staggering--similar to Argentina's Dirty War.
As the report notes, one of the key problems now is that it is extremely difficult to prosecute anyone, and many family members are stigmatized as FARC sympathizers. Plus, many cases end up in military courts.
The report concludes with specific recommendations for both the Colombian and U.S. governments, and is well worth a look.