Practice Relating to Rule 117. Accounting for Missing Persons
Section D. Right of the families to know the fate of their relatives
In 2005, in the Constitutional Case No. C-575/05, the Plenary Chamber of Colombia’s Constitutional Court stated:
[T]he specific mention in … [Law 975 of 2005] of the victims and their relatives and the knowledge of the fate of the disappeared or kidnapped cannot be understood but as Congress’ intention to underscore that it shall be the relatives of the kidnapped and disappeared who become the primary recipients of information regarding the victims, without this implying any restriction whatsoever to other victims’ right to know the truth, or to society’s more general right to know the truth.
In 2006, in the Constitutional Case No. C-370/06, the Plenary Chamber of Colombia’s Constitutional Court stated:
[T]he following principles are relevant for the … [present case]: the right to know is not subject to statutes of limitation and includes the opportunity to know the truth about the circumstances in which the violations were committed and, in case of death or disappearance, about the victim’s fate.
The Court further stated:
Article 12 of the Constitution, which prohibits enforced disappearance, and the Inter-American Convention on Enforced Disappearance … stipulate inter alia
the State’s obligation to seriously investigate the crime of enforced disappearance and to inform the victims and their families about the result of the investigations and the fate of the disappeared persons. This obligation must be immediately and officially complied with and does not require that the victims initiate or further the investigations. In addition, satisfactory compliance with this obligation requires the State to adopt all necessary measures to establish the whereabouts of disappeared persons as soon as possible since a delay of the investigation or of providing information to the interested persons constitutes a violation of the right of the disappeared persons’ relatives not to be subjected to cruel treatment.
[footnote in original omitted]