LIMA – Fifteen years after the end of Peru’s armed conflict, loved ones of the thousands who disappeared during the war between Shining Path rebels and the government are pressing for legislation that would put commit the resources of the state to the search for their relatives.
While the post-war Truth and Reconciliation Commission put the number of those still missing from the 1980-2000 conflict at 8,558, others, including the International Committee of the Red Cross, suggest the actual figure is in the range of 13,000-16,000.
The absence of any authoritative number or list of the missing indicates the magnitude of the problem, Red Cross official Rafael Barrantes told EFE.
More than 6,000 conflict-era graves, many containing the remains of multiple victims, have been located, but Peruvian legislation has not facilitated the search for the missing.
As of the end of 2014, only 3,146 sets of remains had been recovered, of which 1,715 were identified and 1,599 returned to the families, according to the national medical examiner’s office.
The aim of the #Reune, or #Reunite, campaign is to spur the justice ministry to submit to Congress a bill that advocates for the missing and their families drafted in May 2014 to give government backing to the search.
Launched by the relatives of the missing, the campaign enjoys support from the International Red Cross, the Catholic bishops conference, Peru’s major Protestant denominations, the national ombudsman’s office and the UN Working Group on Enforced or Involuntary Disappearances, among other entities.
“Relatives cannot keep waiting any longer,” Barrantes said. “They are dying without getting answers.”
Though the Peruvian government has taken steps to assist victims of the conflict, such as a comprehensive reparations plan, it has not set in place an adequate program to search for disappeared people, he said.
What is needed is “a state policy prioritizing humanitarian goals over judicial ones,” Barrantes said.