'Let's Talk About the Disappeared'
By Constanza Vieira
BOGOTÁ, Jul 16, 2010 (IPS) - Every day, Luz Marina Hache sees her disappeared husband,
Eduardo Lorne, in their 25-year-old son. He sleeps the same
way, is equally studious, and like his father, he is
infuriated by injustice. He has the same beautiful face that
Lorne was "disappeared" - abducted by Colombia's armed
forces - in November 1986. He was a union leader at the
state National Paedagogical University of Colombia, and had
been in prison for belonging to M-19, a nationalistic armed
group which returned to civil society and political life
three years later.
Hache, 55, has been working for the Attorney General's
Office (AGO) for the last 17 years. She has a close-up view
of the pain of victims of Colombia's long internal armed
conflict: forced disappearances, massacres, extrajudicial
executions, displaced families, threats. It seems as though
it will never end.
She says this is a revival of her painful memories. "It
confirms me in my belief, which is what Eduardo, 'el Negro'
as I called him, also believed: we have to build a country
where there is a place for everyone, where there is respect
for other people's way of thinking, and acceptance of who
She falls apart when she imagines what would happen if the
remains of "el Negro" were to be found.
If that ever happens, Hache would be able to stop looking
for him. "Being able to bury him, knowing he has a grave
with his name on it, that he is no longer an N.N. (no name)
and his remains aren't treated like an animal's, that would
give me peace of mind. And I would tell myself that my
struggle has not been in vain," she said.
In June 2009, the
talked of 27,000 forcibly
disappeared persons. In
December, the Attorney
announced there were
more than 49,000.
The state National Search
Disappeared Persons said
this week that 46,329
people, alive or dead,
The Search Commission,
created in 2000 to support
investigations into enforced
victims of this crime
against humanity. Of these,
159 have been found alive
and 280 have been found
dead, according to its
coordinator, Andrés Peña,
speaking at the forum on
"Let's All Talk About the
"It would allow me to forgive: forgive those who did that to
him; forgive all the torturers and killers…" It would give
her strength to face each survivor who comes to her office
with all the pain of having lost a loved one, and that
unanswerable question: "Why me?"
Hache works in the Sex Offenses Unit of the AGO, and is a
leader in the National Association of Judicial Branch
Although she is part of the entity that investigates and
prosecutes court cases, Hache is extremely critical of the
AGO and the justice system. Only since 2008 have they paid
proper attention to what the victims say, she complained.
"I think that came about because of the way the victims
challenged the 'spontaneous declarations' made in court by
the paramilitaries," said Hache, referring to the voluntary
confessions of ultra-rightwing paramilitary groups that made
an agreement with the government of President Álvaro Uribe
When the negotiations were completed, the Constitutional
Court imposed the condition that only if they told "the
whole truth" would the paramilitaries be eligible for
reduced sentences of between five and eight years
imprisonment for all their crimes.
Victims present at court hearings have the right to question
those on trial. According to Hache, "this is what has
compelled the state to pay real attention to what the
victims feel and say.
"Many prosecutors and judicial investigators have gained
awareness of the real situation and have begun to
understand, and respect, the pain and grief felt by the
victims," she said.
"But it must also be said that some officials take the
perpetrator's version of events, excusing or justifying his
crimes, at face value, and the prosecutor does nothing to
prevent this," Hache said. "There is never any excuse for
taking someone's life."
Forced disappearance is often linked with appalling
treatment, like arbitrary detention and torture.
The rightwing paramilitaries' plan for mass slaughter, to
eradicate all vestiges of social organisation, protest and
discontent, with the advantage of taking over the lands
belonging to families that were displaced, included the
attempt to hide its true extent.
The number of the disappeared is in the tens of thousands,
but the statistics are widely inconsistent (see sidebar).
The International Convention for the Protection of All
Persons from Enforced Disappearance, adopted by the General
Assembly of the United Nations in 2006, is the first
international instrument to enshrine the right to truth.
And it has "teeth": its Committee on Enforced Disappearances
has real powers to come to the aid of victims, search for
them and support their relatives.
Bogotá announced its ratification of the convention, but
only partially. It does not recognise the competence of the
Committee, and claims the existing inter-American human
rights system has more than sufficient powers to do the job.
This means that the Committee cannot take up any case of
disappearance in Colombia, according to the statute. Voices
have been raised in recent months, calling for the country
to ratify the convention in full.
"The Committee is really necessary. It would be an added
instrument against forced disappearances, adding strength to
the struggle," said Andrés Peña of the National Search
Committee for Disappeared Persons, at a forum this week
titled "Hablemos todos de los desaparecidos" (Let's All Talk
About the Disappeared), organised by the Association of
Relatives of the Detained-Disappeared (ASFADDES).
The Committee "would be most helpful," Yanette Bautista,
whose sister Nydia Erika disappeared in 1987, told IPS.
The Nydia Erika Bautista Foundation and ASFADDES, among
other organisations, launched a campaign on "Víctimas y
Derechos, Haz Lo Justo, Hasta Encontrarlos" (Victims and
Rights, Do the Right Thing, Until They Are Found) in May
2009 to call for full ratification of the convention.
In April the 2nd World Congress on Psychosocial Work in
Exhumation Processes, Forced Disappearance, Justice and
Truth was held in Bogotá, attended by 300 delegates from 23
countries in Asia, Africa, the Americas and Europe.
In its final statement, the Psychosocial Congress called on
the Colombian government to ratify the convention without
Luz Marina Hache believes it is very unlikely that those
responsible for the disappearance of "el Negro" will ever be
found. But "society in general should make a commitment that
there will never again be disappeared persons in Colombia,"
That is precisely what is in doubt, given the government's
rejection of the jurisdiction in Colombia of the Committee
on Enforced Disappearances.