Practice Relating to Rule 98. Enforced Disappearance
Section C. Investigation of enforced disappearance
Colombia’s Basic Military Manual (1995) provides that “in time of peace, States have the obligation to take preventive measures”, inter alia
, to “create efficient mechanisms enabling disappeared persons to be located”.
Colombia’s Law on the Urgent Tracing Mechanism (2005) states in a chapter entitled “The Urgent Tracing Mechanism for the Prevention of the Crime of Enforced Disappearance”:
The urgent tracing mechanism is a public mechanism that protects the freedom, personal integrity and the other rights and safeguards from which persons benefit who are presumed to have disappeared.
Under no circumstances may the urgent tracing mechanism be considered as an obstacle, limitation or previous stage in constitutional habeas corpus proceedings or in a criminal investigation of the facts.
The Law also states: “Anybody who knows that a person has probably disappeared may request any judicial authority to activate the urgent tracing mechanism.”
In 2005, in the Constitutional Case No. C-473/05, the Plenary Chamber of Colombia’s Constitutional Court stated:
Both the obligation of the official to gather certain information when receiving the [tracing] request and the obligation to investigate and examine other sources if the person submitting the [tracing] request is unable to provide all the information strengthen the active role that judicial authorities in charge of carrying out the urgent tracing mechanism must assume.
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:
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]