Colombia 2010-2012 – Advancing Methods to Count Deaths and Missing People

From 2010 to 2012, a series of reports by HRDAG researchers applied new statistical methodologies to investigate deaths and missing people in Colombia. A 2010 report released by HRDAG scientists Tamy Guberek, Daniel Guzmán, Megan Price, Kristian Lum, and Patrick Ball documented patterns of violence in the Colombian state of Casanare. HRDAG researchers used MSE to analyze killings and disappearances recorded in 15 datasets provided by judicial, government, security, forensic and civil society organizations. Matching cases that appeared in more than one dataset, HRDAG statisticians modeled the process by which violations were recorded and estimated the number of undocumented killings and disappearances in Casanare. The study found that disappearances in southern Casanare peaked precisely at the time when reported killings in that region were lowest. The report also observed disappearances in different times and places than killings, suggesting that perpetrators changed their methods during the conflict. This study was built on an earlier HRDAG report on missing people in Casanare that helped guide investigations of missing people across Colombia. HRDAG findings estimated that thirty to forty percent of an estimated 2,553 missing people in Casanare were unreported.

Our work has been used by truth commissions, international criminal tribunals, and non-governmental human rights organizations. We have worked with partners on projects on five continents.