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Volume 561: debated on Tuesday 23 April 2013

10. What assessment he has made of the progress made by the Government of Colombia in tackling impunity and implementing the victims and land restitution law. (152353)

As noted in our 2012 human rights report, the Colombian Government have made some progress on both issues: 170,000 victims have been provided with reparations under the victims and land restitution law. We continue to press the Colombian Government to speed up the processing of cases and reduce impunity, and support them in their steps to reform the judicial system.

I am sure the House will agree that, despite the law’s success, many human rights activists are still in grave danger from death threats, and the Catholic Fund for Overseas Development and others have campaigned to highlight the issue. Has the Minister met CAFOD and, if not, will he do so?

The UK’s statement on the UN’s 2013 universal periodic review on Colombia, which we are launching today in Geneva, will call for improved access to justice for victims. I have not to date met representatives from CAFOD, but I would be delighted to do so, particularly if they were accompanied by the hon. Gentleman.

Does my right hon. Friend agree that lessons learned by the UK during the Northern Ireland peace process could be useful in helping us to deliver peace in Colombia?

Having had the honour of serving as Minister of State for Northern Ireland for two and a half years and of now travelling the world, I know that many countries benefit from what was learned in Northern Ireland. I welcome the interest shown in Colombia by Members from Northern Ireland, because what they know can be of huge use to Colombia as it tries to inch towards peace.

The Minister will be aware that, while the land restitution law is good, when peasant farmers return to their land they are coerced, bullied, injured and murdered. Have the Government held any discussions with the Colombian Government to ensure that peasant farmers are given protection when they return to their land?

The hon. Gentleman is right. We are concerned about the right of indigenous people. We are providing technical assistance to the Colombian Government to work towards effective implementation of the new land and victims law, which aims to do exactly that—to return land to huge numbers of displaced people and to compensate victims.

Sexual violence has reached a dangerous level in Colombia. The numbers are ever increasing, yet very few are brought to trial. What can the Government do to highlight this absurdity?

Indeed; in 2012, President Santos launched Colombia’s national public policy for gender equality, and the British Government will provide support to the Colombian Government to promote women’s rights and address discrimination wherever possible. Equally, the British embassy in Colombia is assisting the Colombian Government in looking at these extremely serious issues.