Colombian president faces human rights scrutiny on UK visit

By agency reporter
22 Nov 2011

Colombian president Juan Manuel Santos visits ministers and the Queen this week, with the country’s atrocious record under intense scrutiny.

Human rights groups and trade unionists are among the activists seeking to highlight threats to the media and to independent political activity, in particular.

In a report entitled 'Gunning for the Media, the International Federation of Journalists report has named three Colombian reporters who were killed last year.

Labour MP Jim Sheridan has secured a 90-minute adjournment debate at Westminster from 11am today (Tuesday 22 November 2011) to allow MPs to question the president’s record on human rights.

According to the United Nations, between 2004-2008 more than 3,000 people were killed by the Colombian army.

Human rights activists say that the murder of civilians continues, with more than 100 social activists murdered since Santos came to power.

British MPs will hear evidence of Colombia’s mistreatment of trade union members.

Michelle Stanistreet, General Secretary of the National Union of Journalists, commented “The violent threats to journalists in Colombia are vicious and abhorrent. Santos will be drumming up business and putting a gloss on his country to ministers and UK companies, yet he presides over a country where human rights violators continue to enjoy immunity in an atmosphere of severe human rights abuses, intimidation and death.”

As reported on Ekklesia, the 2011 NUJ conference heard from Colombian investigative journalist Claudia Julieta Duque. She told delegates that UK government funds are being used to finance a unit of her country's secret security police.

Ms Duque’s activities as a journalist resulted in her being kidnapped and forced to flee the country three times. She faces continual threats, intimidation and harassment at the hands of the Colombian security service. She told delegates that journalists were still being killed by the state.

Claudia Julieta Duque declared: “I have survived only because of international support from the NUJ and others. My message is not only that being a journalist in Colombia is an adventure. What is happening is a crime against humanity.”

The ITUC annual survey of violations against trade unionists said: “Trade unionists in Colombia saw no improvement in their situation in 2010. The number of trade union leaders assassinated remained high (49) while many trade union activists faced death threats and assassination attempts. The legal system continues to be ineffective in solving these murders and bringing those responsible to justice. While the new government claims to take workers’ rights seriously, anti-union attitudes among employers remain strong. Numerous violations of collective agreements were reported."

With thanks and acknowledgements to the NUJ

[Ekk/3]

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