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Connecting Legal and Psychosocial Aspects in the Search for Victims of Enforced Disappearance in Colombia and El Salvador

Funder: Swiss Network for International Studies

Investigators: Dr Lisa Ott, swisspeace (PI) Dr Briony Jones, WICID (Principal Member) Dr Mina Rauschenbach, University of Lausanne (Principal Member) Camilo Sanchez, DeJusticia Colombia (Principal Member) Heli Hernando, ProBusqueda El Salvador (Principal Member) Ana Julia, ProBusqueda (Principal Member)

Partners: swisspeace; University of Lausanne; DeJusticia in Colombia; Pro Busqueda in El Salvador; United Nations Committee on Enforced Disappearance; International Committee of the Red Cross

This multidisciplinary research project explores the foundations and practical implementation of the search for victims of enforced disappearance from a legal, psychosocial and political perspective in the two case study countries of Colombia and El Salvador.


Project overview:

  1. The aim of this multidisciplinary project is to fill a significant gap in the scientific knowledge on search processes, which are not well understood or researched, particularly with regard to the involvement of civil society actors and the families of the disappeared.
  2. The project involves a mapping of the international and domestic legal context for the search for the disappeared in the two case study countries of Colombia and El Salvador. This mapping will then be followed by in-depth interviews with victims, their families, civil society actors and legal actors.
  3. The project will feed directly into national and international standard setting through our Associated Members (the United Nations Committee on Enforced Disappearance and the International Committee of the Red Cross), thereby enhancing policy and practice in the search of victims of enforced disappearance and addressing the needs of the families of the disappeared.

Our focus:

    1. Taking into account that several actors are generally involved in search efforts, including official search mechanisms, the project focuses particularly on the role of the families of the disappeared and civil society organisations.
    2. The project speaks to both a gap in the scholarship on enforced disappearance, namely the lack of knowledge on the search itself and the role of families in it, and also a policy gap in terms of international standards.