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Volume 472: debated on Monday 3 March 2008

To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs pursuant to the Answer of 19 February 2008, Official Report, columns 149-50W, on Colombia, what reports the Minister of State has received which informed his Answer that the people who are murdering the most trade unionists in Colombia are not the Colombian government but FARC. (189620)

It is illegal armed groups including the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia that are committing the majority of human rights abuses in Colombia, including intimidation and murder of trade unionists. However, the Colombian armed forces are also guilty of committing abuses, which is why we are helping the Colombian Government develop the processes to root out these abuses.

The latest report of the office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) on the situation of human rights in Colombia (UN General Assembly document A/HRC/4/48); Annex II paragraphs 1-2 states that:

“In 2006, the OHCHR Office recorded an increase in threats against human rights defenders, including trade union members...groups that also continue to be victims of murder, arbitrary or illegal arrest and violations of due process... The acts of violence against human rights defenders have limited their ability to organize and to report violations in some regions of the country. Such acts are attributed to members of new illegal armed groups, paramilitaries and guerrillas. In other cases, members of the security forces and judicial employees have been accused of responsibility for these actions”.

We agree that the situation faced by trade unionists in Colombia is difficult. The number of trade unionists threatened and killed is too high. This is why, working with the Trade Unions Congress, we have invited a delegation of Colombian trade unionists to the UK in March, to hear from them first hand and to explore how the UK can offer its support.