The Red Cross on Sunday handed to forensic experts 11 bodies believed to be the remains of Colombian lawmakers killed in rebel captivity, as authorities tried to end a bitter dispute over how the men died.
The killing of the legislators underscored the plight of hostages held for years by Latin America’s oldest left-wing insurgency, among them French-Colombian politician Ingrid Betancourt and three American contract workers.
Families of the lawmakers gathered outside the forensic medical center in Cali, where experts will determine whether the men died in cross-fire in June, as rebels claim, or were executed by the guerrillas, as the government says.
“This was a humanitarian gesture, because of the pain of the families, not just these ones, but of many, and their right to know what happened to their loved ones in this armed conflict,” said Christoph Vogt, the Red Cross team leader.
The remains were unearthed Saturday from shallow graves in a remote jungle site located through coordinates the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, or FARC, had given the Red Cross. The legislators were kidnapped in 2002.
Violence from Colombia’s four-decade guerrilla war has eased under President Alvaro Uribe’s security crackdown, but thousands of people each year are still killed, maimed by land mines or displaced.
The FARC wants Uribe to cede a demilitarized safe haven as a condition for releasing hostages. He says the rebels would use such an area to regroup.