The release of 10 members of the security forces by the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) highlights the need for a serious commitment by all guerrilla groups in the South American country to halt the kidnapping of civilians and put an end to hostage taking, said Amnesty International yesterday (2 April 2012).
On Sunday, the FARC released six police officers and four soldiers held captive since the late 1990s. These are thought to be the last remaining members of the security forces still held captive by the guerrilla group.
“Yesterday's release will bring relief to the former captives and to their loved ones after an ordeal that has lasted more than a decade. But the unimaginable anguish of the families of the hundreds of civilians still believed to be held by the FARC and by the National Liberation Army (ELN) continues,” said Marcelo Pollack, Colombia researcher at Amnesty International.
According to the NGO País Libre, the FARC still holds some 400 civilians. Around three-quarters were kidnapped for ransom, a practice the FARC said in February it would end.
“Although the FARC’s pledge to stop the kidnapping of civilians for ransom is positive, it does not go far enough. It must commit to ending all kidnapping, all hostage-taking and release those civilians still under their control. They must also reveal the whereabouts of those who were either killed or who died in captivity. The ELN must also do the same,” said Marcelo Pollack.
“The FARC and the ELN must also immediately and unconditionally commit to put a definitive end to all other human rights abuses and violations of international humanitarian law, including the deliberate killing of civilians, the deployment of land mines and the use of child soldiers.”
According to official statistics, there were 305 kidnappings in 2011 compared to 282 in 2010. Most were attributed to criminal gangs, but guerrilla groups were responsible for the vast majority of conflict-related kidnappings. On 26 November, FARC guerrillas reportedly executed four members of the security forces they had been holding captive for at least 12 years.
Paramilitary groups and the security forces, either acting alone or in collusion with each other, are also responsible for crimes under international law, including unlawful killings, enforced disappearances, sexual violence and forced displacement.