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Colombia: Political Prisoners

Volume 619: debated on Tuesday 10 January 2017

3. What reports he has received on the conditions in which political prisoners are held in Colombia; and if he will make a statement. (908032)

13. What reports he has received on the conditions in which political prisoners are held in Colombia; and if he will make a statement. (908042)

We are concerned by reports about the detention of human rights defenders and activists in Colombia, often held without trial or access to legal representation. Our embassy in Bogota closely follows specific cases. The Prime Minister raised our concerns about threats to human rights defenders with President Santos during the state visit in November.

I thank the Minister for his answer, but, following the amnesty law passed by the Colombian Congress on 28 December, will the Minister urge the Columbian Government to release all civil society prisoners, as agreed, as soon as possible?

We welcome the approval of the new amnesty Bill of course, and we believe it will lead to a benefit for all citizens and the wider region as part of the Columbian peace process. We look forward to all aspects of that law, particularly with regard to disarmament and reintegration.

Happy new year, Mr Speaker.

The transition zones are an important, if not crucial, aspect of the peace agreement, yet we are hearing reports of work on living quarters not even having started, of food being so rotten that people are suffering from severe and possibly lethal food poisoning, and of the supply of water being very scarce. Given that the transition zones are where the FARC troops are supposed to be concentrated as an essential element of the peace agreement, will Her Majesty’s Government please put absolute pressure on the Colombian authorities to ensure that the zones are properly completed?

We do of course raise these matters with the Colombian authorities on a regular basis. I take the point that the hon. Gentleman has made, and we will of course relay it back.

The United Kingdom has supported the Colombian Government of Juan Manuel Santos throughout the difficult, recently concluded and very welcome peace process, and we have pledged our continuing support through the United Nations and the European Union. Will the Minister outline what specifically will be supported, and tell us whether the Colombian people and civil society will be included in the discussions on how the funds will be allocated?

My hon. Friend is right to suggest that 2016 was an historic year for Colombia. The peace deal with the FARC ended the longest conflict in the western hemisphere. He asks about the range of support that we are providing for the peace process. It includes a contribution of £7.5 million to the UN trust fund, with more than £2 million dedicated to de-mining.

According to a report from the Institute for Development and Peace Studies in 2016, there is now a paramilitary presence in 31 of the 32 Colombian departments. Will the Minister make urgent representations to the Colombian Government to ensure that the proliferation of paramilitaries and private armies is countered, and that the articles of the peace process are upheld?

I can confirm that we are concerned by reports of violence against human rights defenders, which has increased in 2016. Those attacks have increased in areas from which the FARC is withdrawing, which is disturbing. We will of course raise these matters with the Colombian Government, particularly the importance of security in conflict-affected areas.