From the field - The other Colombia

The other Colombia - © ICRC/KRASSOWSKI, Wiltord

The other Colombia - © ICRC/KRASSOWSKI, Wiltord


A new ICRC report shows that forced displacement, threats of violence, rape and damage to civilian objects have all increased in Colombia in 2011.

Despite a growing economy, Colombians continue to suffer the effects of an armed conflict that has lasted for almost 50 years. The impact of this conflict on civilians remains significant.

Delegates working across the country witness first-hand the conflict and its effects. The report is based on their field monitoring.

In 2011, our colleagues recorded over 750 violations of IHL and other rules protecting human life.

These include a victim of death threats who had to flee her home:

"They came to my home and destroyed my belongings, throwing things everywhere, breaking down the door. They even stole the money I had earned from selling my homemade tamales. It's a good thing I wasn't at home or they would have killed me there and then. They threatened me because I lived next door to a member of an armed group. The whole town knew they wanted to kill me, except for me. They came after me because I had sold food to the other side. But that's how I earn a living. People come and buy my food. What am I supposed to do? Refuse to sell to them? Because of this, I had to flee the town. I try to get by with my son, but it's very hard leaving your home behind."

Or a son who was disappeared:

"My son has been missing since 6 February 2006. He was 18 years old. He went out at 6 o'clock in the evening, saying 'I'm going to run an errand. I'll be right back'. At 10 o'clock he still wasn't back and I went to bed as I was tired. I got up just after 5 o'clock. I always look in on my children when I get up. But I couldn't see him. Dario wasn't there! We started by looking for him at the police stations. I went to the authorities to report him missing. I am still looking. What I want is justice and the truth. I want to know what happened. It is painful, very painful – to lavish so much care on your children and then end up searching for them. All I do is ask God to grant me strength. At least if I knew one way or the other, but you don't know what it's like to go to sleep every night with that uncertainty, to get home from work and not find him there."

Or a minor forced to take part in the conflict:

"They took my son when he was barely a young man. He must be 27 by now. Armed men came to the farm and took him away. During all this time I have seen him only rarely, when neighbours helped us meet in secret. I last saw him three years ago and the last time I had news of him was in 2010, when I received a phone call telling me that my son had been captured. That was many years after he was taken away. I have been looking for him ever since but nobody can tell me anything." 

Jordi Raich heads the ICRC in Colombia. He speaks about the "other Colombia", geographically remote and too often absent from the headlines, and how he and his collleagues will use this public report to make a difference.