Colombia has the world's highest number of displaced people

Colombia's Constitutional Court has decreed that the National Victim's Registry must cover people displaced by the BACRIM, marking a victory for the thousands of Colombians forced from their homes due to criminal violence.

The court also decreed that the government cannot place any limits on displaced people's inclusion in the registry, reported El Espectador. According to the court's decision, the government cannot argue that a displaced person is a victim of "common crime" rather than the "armed conflict" as a way of denying them access to reparations.

The tribunal indicated that displaced people do not have "ordinary mechanisms" to resolve their situations, meaning they are very vulnerable and enjoy little state protection.

According to El Tiempo, displacement caused by the hybrid criminal organizations known as the BACRIM -- from "bandas criminales" (criminal bands) -- is highest in the coastal regions of Nariño and in the urban areas of Medellin and Buenaventura. The new court ruling means that victims will be allowed to register as long as they have suffered forced displacement, and the official registry will no longer evaluate cases to determine if they are related to the armed conflict.

InSight Crime Analysis

The issue of whether the BACRIM should be considered actors in Colombia's conflict is a thorny one with widespread implications for how the groups are tackled -- illustrated by the Urabeños' recent plea to be treated as the "third actor" in Colombia's conflict and be allowed to negotiate with the government. However, whatever their status, the impact of these groups on victims, especially in terms of forced displacement, is no less severe than that of more outwardly political groups.

In this sense, the court's ruling is an important step towards providing justice for the thousands of people in Colombia displaced by the BACRIM, who had previously been unable to claim recognition as victims and had no recourse for recovering their homes or receiving reparations.

It also means the government can start to properly monitor the true impact of the BACRIM, as until now it has not included the number of people displaced by the BACRIM in statistics, meaning the true number of displaced people in Colombia, already the highest in the world, is much higher than the official figure of 4.9 million as of the end of 2012.

Investigations

  • 1
  • 2
  • 3
  • 4
  • 5
  • 6
  • 7
  • 8
  • 9
  • 10
Prev Next

Where Chaos Reigns: Inside the San Pedro Sula Prison

Where Chaos Reigns: Inside the San Pedro Sula Prison

In San Pedro Sula's jailhouse, chaos reigns. The inmates, trapped in their collective misery, battle for control over every inch of their tight quarters. Farm animals and guard dogs roam free and feed off scraps, which can include a human heart. Every day is visitors' day, and...

The MS13 Moves (Again) to Expand on US East Coast

The MS13 Moves (Again) to Expand on US East Coast

Local police and justice officials are convinced that the Mara Salvatrucha (MS13) has strengthened its presence along the East Coast of the United States. The alarm follows a recent spate of violence -- of the type not seen in a decade -- which included dismembered bodies and...

Homicides in Guatemala: Conclusions and Recommendations

Homicides in Guatemala: Conclusions and Recommendations

Olfato. It is a term used quite often in law enforcement and judicial circles in Central America (and other parts of the world as well). It refers to the sixth sense they have as they see a crime scene, investigate a murder or plow through the paperwork...

How the MS13 Tried (and Failed) to Create a Single Gang in the US

How the MS13 Tried (and Failed) to Create a Single Gang in the US

In July 2011, members of the Mara Salvatrucha (MS13) attended a meeting organized in California by a criminal known as "Bad Boy." Among the invitees was José Juan Rodríguez Juárez, known as "Dreamer," who had gone to the meeting hoping to better understand what was beginning to...

Homicides in Guatemala: Collecting the Data

Homicides in Guatemala: Collecting the Data

When someone is murdered in Guatemala, police, forensic doctors and government prosecutors start making their way to the crime scene and a creaky, antiquated 20th century bureaucratic machine kicks into gear. Calls are made. Forms are filled out by hand, or typed into computers, or both. Some...

The Fixer and El Salvador's Missed Opportunity

The Fixer and El Salvador's Missed Opportunity

In the photograph, they are both smiling. In the foreground, on the left hand side, a man in a short-sleeved buttoned white shirt, jeans and a metal watch, holds a bottle of water in his right hand. He laughs heartily. He is Herbert Saca. On the right...

The Prison Dilemma: Latin America’s Incubators of Organized Crime

The Prison Dilemma: Latin America’s Incubators of Organized Crime

The prison system in Latin America and the Caribbean has become a prime incubator for organized crime. This overview -- the first of six reports on prison systems that we produced after a year-long investigation -- traces the origins and maps the consequences of the problem, including...

Reign of the Kaibil: Guatemala’s Prisons Under Byron Lima

Reign of the Kaibil: Guatemala’s Prisons Under Byron Lima

Following Guatemala's long and brutal civil war, members of the military were charged, faced trial and sentenced to jail time. Even some members of a powerful elite unit known as the Kaibil were put behind bars. Among these prisoners, none were more emblematic than Captain Byron Lima...

El Salvador Prisons and the Battle for the MS13’s Soul

El Salvador Prisons and the Battle for the MS13’s Soul

El Salvador's prison system is the headquarters of the country's largest gangs. It is also where one of these gangs, the MS13, is fighting amongst itself for control of the organization.

Homicides in Guatemala: Introduction, Methodology, and Major Findings

Homicides in Guatemala: Introduction, Methodology, and Major Findings

When violence surged in early 2015 in Guatemala, then-President Otto Pérez Molina knew how to handle the situation: Blame the street gangs.