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Colombia: Trade Unions

Volume 474: debated on Wednesday 2 April 2008

To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what recent representations he has made to the government of Colombia on the (a) protection of trade unionists in that country and (b) deaths of Antonio Gomez and Carmen Carvajal Ramirez; and if he will make a statement. (196921)

We regard human rights defenders and trade unionists as a fundamental part of Colombian civil society. We have repeatedly urged the Colombian government to do their utmost to ensure that these brave people can take forward their essential work safely and with adequate protection. I did so when visiting Colombia in November 2007, and my right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary did so with the Colombian Vice President in March. I also reiterated the Government’s strong support to a delegation of Colombian trade unionists who visited the UK in early March, a visit co-organised by the Foreign and Commonwealth Office and the Trades Union Congress (TUC).

I have urged the Colombian government to continue with its programme of expanding protection to trade unions and other human rights defenders, including when I spoke to Vice President Santos and the new Colombian Ambassador to London in March 2008. We will continue to discuss with the Colombian TUC and their UK counterparts how this Government can offer its practical support to Colombian trade unionists.

We make regular and numerous representations to the Colombian government on specific cases of abuse of trade unionists. I have asked our Embassy in Bogota to make representations to the Colombian government on the cases of Antonio Gomez and Carmen Carvajal Ramirez, and will write to the hon. Member with the outcome of those representations once the Embassy receives a response. I will also arrange for copies of the letter to be placed in the Library of the House.