Colombian president's UK visit welcomed

By agency reporter
November 3, 2016

Christian Aid and  the advocacy group ABColombia  have welcomed the visit of Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos Calderon to the UK this week. President Santos was recently awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in the name of the eight million victims of Colombia’s internal armed conflict.

Thomas Mortensen, Christian Aid’s country manager in Colombia said: “The UK must demonstrate in this state visit its ongoing support to the Colombian government and the Colombian people as they continue to work for peace. Now, more than ever, Colombia needs the engagement of the international community to continue to work for a negotiated solution to the armed conflict despite last month’s referendum setback.”

Both the UK and Colombia have made commitments in the joint statement on Human Rights issued on the last official visit of President Santos, to see the displaced victims return to the land from which they have been forcibly displaced.

Colombia has the world’s largest internally displaced population. All armed groups, including the security forces and the paramilitaries – acting alone or in collusion – and insurgents, have committed serious human rights crimes, including forced displacements, torture, sexual violence and enforced disappearances.

The Santos Government is currently renegotiating some aspects of the Peace Agreement with the FARC following a 'no' referendum vote by the slimmest of margins on 2 October 2016.

Louise Winstanley Programme Manager of ABColombia said: “Whilst changes to include points made by the 'No' campaign are essential to ensuring a wider-ranging acceptance of the Agreement, there are some things it is crucial not to change.

“These include the Agreement’s guarantees for truth, justice, reparation and - most importantly - non-repetition to thousands of victims and the guarantee of no amnesties for sexual violence carried out during the conflict. These must be ensured to build sustainable peace.”

These guarantees reflect international standards and the commitment of the British and Colombian Governments, following the 2014 Global Summit in London to End Sexual Violence in Conflict.

Ms Winstanley added: “The Agreement also makes important commitments on land reform and strengthening the rural economy, which is essential if we are to see people lifted out of poverty.” 

Whilst President Santos has positively engaged with the 'no' campaign led by ex-president Álvaro Uribe Velez, and the stalled talks with the second largest group ELN are likely to start again next weekend, violence by paramilitary groups continues and is directed at rural communities and human rights defenders.

In 2012, 33 human rights defenders were killed in Columbia. In 2015, this doubled to 63 which means that one in three human rights defenders killed in the world last year were Colombian.

ABColombia and Christian Aid have urged the Colombian government to invite Michel Forst, the UN Special Rapporteur on human rights defenders, to Colombia and have expressed the hope that the UK Government will promote such a visit.

*ABColumbia http://www.abcolombia.org.uk/

*Christian Aid http://www.christianaid.org.uk/

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