Colombia: Protests

Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office – in the House of Commons on 20th July 2021.

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Photo of Clive Efford Clive Efford Labour, Eltham

What recent discussions he has had with the Colombian Government on the policing of protests and incidents of violence against protesters in that country.

Photo of Wendy Morton Wendy Morton Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office)

We remain concerned about reports of human rights violations in relation to recent protests in Colombia, and we regularly raise our concerns with the relevant state actors. I spoke with the then Colombian acting Foreign Minister Adriana Mejía on 14 May to express my concerns and to welcome Colombia’s commitment to transparent investigations into allegations of excessive use of force by the police. I also spoke with the Colombian ambassador to the UK on 12 July to ask for an update on investigations. I was pleased to learn that more than 200 investigations into alleged misconduct by the police are now open.

Photo of Clive Efford Clive Efford Labour, Eltham

I am grateful for that answer, but the truth is that the UK Government are providing extensive training and support to Colombian police, despite evidence of extensive police brutality, with up to 43 people allegedly murdered, a catalogue of sexual assaults and people being blinded by having tear gas canisters fired in their face. Will the Minister commit to publishing full overseas security and justice assessments for activities under this programme, so that the House can satisfy itself that the Government are not contributing to further abuses of human rights in Colombia?

Photo of Wendy Morton Wendy Morton Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office)

On police training, our conflict, stability and security fund’s Colombia peace and stabilisation programme launched the £2.1 million police innovations for stabilisation in Colombia project in 2021. The project is supporting the transformation of the Colombian national police, but we are not aware of any police units in Colombia that have received UK training support being involved in human rights violations. Colombia is a Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office human rights priority country. We take the growing levels of violence against social leaders and human rights defenders extremely seriously, and we consistently raise our concerns with the Colombian Government and in multilateral forums.