Colombia: ICJ report identifies necessary measures to ensure victims of enforced disappearance and extrajudicial killings can access justice

The ICJ marked the International Day of the Victims of Enforced Disappearances today by releasing a baseline study (in Spanish) which identifies key obstacles to accountability for serious human right violations in Colombia.

“The report finds that although Colombia has a comprehensive legal framework aimed at providing accountability for serious human rights violations, victims still face many challenges in obtaining access to justice,” said Kingsley Abbott, Coordinator of the ICJ’s Global Accountability Initiative.

“A robust domestic legal framework is important, but without effective Government implementation at every level full accountability for these violations will remain out of reach,” added Abbott.

Among other challenges, some victims still encounter difficulties in participating in criminal proceedings or obtaining information about investigations and prosecutions of those alleged to be responsible for violations.

The study recommends steps Colombia should take to improve the implementation of the domestic legal framework, including:

  • raising the awareness of civil servants, including judicial employees, of victims’ rights and the appropriate legal mechanisms employed to search for “disappeared” persons;
  • improving coordination between the State’s institutions, including the Search Unit for Persons Presumed Disappeared in the context and by Reason of the Armed conflict, the Special Jurisdiction for Peace, and the Office of the Attorney General; and
  • ensuring that the investigation and prosecution of enforced disappearances and extrajudicial killings take place within the civilian rather than the military justice system.

The study also stresses the importance of Colombia recognizing the competence of the UN Committee on Enforced Disappearances (CED) to receive and consider individual communications. Considering the high levels of impunity, the recognition has been requested by Colombian civil society organizations and victims to improve the protection and guarantee of rights of victims of enforced disappearances.

The baseline study has been produced as part of the ICJ’s regional project addressing justice for extrajudicial killings and enforced disappearances in Colombia, Guatemala and Peru, sponsored by the European Union.

The baseline study is available in Spanish.


 The ICJ has long been monitoring laws, policies and practices concerning the investigation and prosecution of serious human rights violations and abuses in Colombia, including enforced disappearances and extrajudicial killings, as part of its efforts to promote accountability, justice and the rule of law around the world.

Enforced disappearances and extrajudicial killings are among the most prevalent human rights violations committed in Colombia, particularly in the context of the ongoing internal armed conflict. In Latin America, Colombia has one of the highest figures of people who have been subject to enforced disappearance or unlawfully killed.

The project is implemented under the ICJ’s Global Accountability Initiative which has also produced baseline studies for Eswatini, Nepal, Myanmar, Venezuela, Cambodia, Tajikistan and Tunisia.


Kingsley Abbott, Coordinator of the Global Accountability Initiative, e:

Carolina Villadiego, Legal and Policy Adviser, Latin America, and Regional Coordinator of the Project, e: carolina.villadiego(a)

Rocío Quintero M, Legal Adviser, Latin America, e: rocio.quintero(a)


Colombia-GRA-Baseline-Study-Publications-Reports-Thematic-reports-2020-SPA (full report, in Spanish, PDF)

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