UK government will push for human rights
clause in EU trade agreement with Colombia - Jan 2010
Foreign and Commonwealth Office replies
to Robert Smith, MP and pledges to promote human rights in Colombia
Chris Bryant, MP, Parliamentary Under Secretary of State replied
in December to Robert Smith's letter detailing the branch's concerns
about the proposed EU trade agreement with Colombia. In his letter,
he acknowledges deep concerns about human rights violations in
Colombia and details the UK government's efforts to address these
concerns in the way they work in Colombia.
Chris Bryant states, "We are leading efforts within the
EU to ensure that any agreement with Colombia will be linked to
a human rights clause, which enables suspension of the agreement
However he stopped short of a commitment to oppose the Trade
agreement. He expressed his view that, "The clause will act
as a catalyst for frank dialogue with the governments of Colombia
and Peru on the (human rights) issue," adding that the robust
legal link with the agreement will ensure that safeguarding human
rights is high profile.
Mr Bryant said, "We do believe that free trade agreements
can help to create the right circumstances for improved stability,
where human rights stand a better chance of flourishing."
He pointed out that the negotiations are also an opportunity for
the UK government to have greater dialogue in the region with
a range of civil society groups and aid organisations which play
a pivotal role in advocacy, transparency and direct support to
the victims of violence in Colombia.
He confirmed that the UK will continue to raise human rights
concerns in the EU alongside other key issues which need to be
resolved before an agreement can be concluded.
Mr Bryant also enclosed a statement from the Foreign Secretary,
David Milliband outlining changes to the way the UK government
works in Colombia including the allocation of funds to tackle
the problem of impunity and to bring more people to justice for
the crimes they commit.
The branch is grateful to Sir Robert Smith for taking up this
matter on our behalf. We will now write to Justice for Colombia,
detailing the response we have received so far.
Branch gets positive response from Salmond
and Smith - Dec 2009
In response to the letter from the Branch, Alex Salmond, MP and
MSP, and Robert Smith, MP have both sought answers from the Government
about its stance on the EU-Colombia Free Trade agreement. We await
Branch supports Justice for Colombia's
camapign to stop the EU-Colombia Free Trade Agreement - Nov 2009
At the Nov 2009 Branch Committee meeting the committee agreed
to write on behalf of the branch to local MPs to seek their support
to stop the Free Trade Agreement (FTA) currently being negotiated
between the European Union (EU) and Colombia.
Now the TUC has followed in the branch's footsteps and has
called on the EU to suspend Colombia Trade talks. TUC General
Secretary Brendan Barber has written to the current EU trade commissioner
Baroness Ashton (soon to take up her new role as High Representative
for Foreign Relations) calling on her to abandon trade talks with
Colombia because of its appalling human rights record. Click
here for more details.
The campaign is being spearheaded by Justice for Colombia, with
the support of the UK and European trade union movement. The branch
is affiliated to Justice for Colombia.
The branch has now written to the Rt Hon Alex Salmond; the Rt
Hon Robert Smith and the Rt Hon Malcolm Bruce, calling on them
to take action to oppose the FTA, and we await their reply.
here to read the letter
The Branch Committee gave its overwhelming support to continue
our affiliation with Justice for Colombia and to write to our
local MPs to ask them for their support to stop the trade agreement.
Kate Ramsden, Branch Chair, said, "However difficult we
may find it at times to be a trade unionist in this country, it
is hard to imagine what it must be like to be in fear of our life
for our involvement in trade union activities, and yet that is
what Colombian trade unionists face day in and day out."
High numbers of trade unionists murdered
Colombia is the most dangerous place in the world for trade unionists.
Over 60% of all trade unionists killed in the world last year
were killed in Colombia.
The murder of trade unionists in Colombia is on the rise, with
a 25% increase in 2008 compared to the previous year. A total
of 109 trade unionists have been killed since Jan 2007, including
21 between Jan and mid-June this year.
The Colombian security forces are deeply implicated in the violence
against trade unionists, and senior government officials regularly
accuse trade unionists in Colombia of being 'terrorists'. Those
responsible for the murders and abuse are almost never punished.
In 95% of the cases perpetrators enjoy complete immunity - a green
light for the killings to continue.
Bodies set up to investigate the killings have delivered few
results. Rather than using their resources to tackle the problem,
the Colombian regime devotes its time and energy to PR campaigns
to downplay the seriousness of the problem.
Serious abuses of human rights - FTAs delayed in other countries
Due to these human rights concerns,
the US and Canada have both already delayed their FTA's with Colombia.
Most recently the EFTA group of countries in Northern Europe blocked
their proposed agreement with Colombia, with Norway calling for
an investigation into the human rights situation before any agreement
Like Justice for Colombia, this branch does not believe Colombia
should be rewarded with an FTA whilst workers continue to be murdered
simply for standing up for their basic rights. We believe that
Europe should stand together with the rest of the international
community in condemning this horrific situation and telling the
regime in Bogota that trade benefits will only be offered if the
human rights situation improves. Unless the international community
takes action, more trade unionists in Colombia will die and those
responsible will continue to escape punishment.
We are in good company. Trade unions around Europe have joined
the campaign, with ETUC General Secretary John Monks calling the
negotiations a 'serious error' and recently writing to all EU
member states calling for their support to halt the agreement
The Colombian trade union movement has asked the European labour
movement to support them by stopping this FTA.