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  • Over 5,500 mass graves have been uncovered following testimonies from witnesses and former paramilitaries.

    Over 5,500 mass graves have been uncovered following testimonies from witnesses and former paramilitaries. | Photo: EFE

Published 3 May 2018

The remains of some 4,296 victims have been identified and delivered to relatives across nine departments.

The bodies of at least 9,000 victims of paramilitary forces have been exhumed from mass graves across Colombia since 2006, according to national authorities.

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More than 5,500 mass graves have been uncovered following testimonies from witnesses and former Colombia United Self-Defense (UAC) groups who applied to the Justice and Peace Law, said Mery Conejo, director of Transitional Justice of the Prosecutor's Office.

The remains of some 4,296 victims have been identified and delivered to relatives across nine departments, the majority returned to their families in the northern provinces of Antioquia and Magdalena.

"We have identified 4,300... Today, the rest of the bodies that we have exhumed are not waiting for the relatives, but the sample that allows us to make the corresponding genetic codes to be able to find that large number that we lack," Conejo said.

Over the course of 12 years, as part of the 'Cemeteries Plan,' the Technical Investigation Body of the Prosecutor's Office (CTI) and the National Police have successfully identified all but 1,934 of the victims discovered through bio testing via saliva or blood samples.

According to the National Center of Historical Memory, between 1970 and 2015 there were 60,630 forced disappearances. At least 46 percent of these were conducted by paramilitary groups.

Despite the Peace Treaty signed between guerrilla groups and the state, violence continues to spiral in Colombia's rural regions, targeting mainly social leaders and community activists.

President Juan Manuel Santos said at least 160 activists have been murdered since 2016.

Almost 500 social leaders have called on the Inter-American Commission for Human Rights to introduce precautionary measures to safeguard the lives of Colombia's human rights defenders, "especially in areas most affected by armed conflict."

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