After three years of searching, Colombian forensic scientists have found over 28,000 unidentified bodies buried across the country, and the search is far from over.
“The program, The Search for Unidentified People in Colombia, has explored about 26 percent of all cemeteries in the country and we hope soon to make a clean sweep. We do not have an estimate of how many people we can find,” said the Director of Human Rights of the Interior Ministry, Maria Paulina Riveros, Saturday.
The search is part of a government initiative to locate disappeared persons after tens of thousands have gone missing, or been forcibly disappeared, in the over 50-year internal conflict in the country. The victims are often dumped in unmarked graves.
For those bodies that have been found, they will now go through a rigorous forensic testing period to establish the cause of death and their identities, according to Riveros.
The majority of the remains were found in cemeteries in the departments of Cundinamarca and Antioquia, which at one point were two of Colombia's most dangerous departments.
Forensic experts began the search for unidentified bodies after Colombia's left-wing opposition demanded in 2011 that a thorough census of the bodies be taken across the country after it was revealed that thousands were killed through a massive government human rights scandal called "false positives." During these years, soldiers killed thousands of civilians and dressed the corpses up in camouflaged fatigues to pass them off as guerrillas killed in combat in order to reap financial rewards from the government.
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More than 800 soldiers have been found guilty in connection with the false positives atrocities so far.
The group of experts exhuming the bodies include a pathologist and forensic expert, a forensic dentist, an anthropologist, a geneticist, a photographer, a radiologist and a fingerprint expert.
The program is currently planned to run until 2019, in which time the government expects to search the whole country.
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