Global Human Rights Sanctions Regulations 2020 - Motion to Approve

Part of the debate – in the House of Lords at 5:49 pm on 29th July 2020.

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Photo of Lord Browne of Ladyton Lord Browne of Ladyton Labour 5:49 pm, 29th July 2020

My Lords, I support this instrument and the introduction of sanctions.

The House will be aware that, in 2016, the Colombian Government reached a landmark peace accord with the FARC. To their credit, successive British Governments have supported peace in Colombia. Sadly, there are many actors in Colombia who, for corrupt motives, oppose peace. On 6 July, 94 members of the US Congress signed a letter to their Secretary of State including the recommendation that he:

“Swiftly hold accountable Colombian Army intelligence members, including at the highest ranks, who ordered and carried out mass surveillance on 130 journalists (including U.S. reporters), human rights defenders, political leaders, and military whistleblowers.”

Sadly, few are surprised that a Colombian army unit used American surveillance equipment, provided to fight drug traffickers, in this illegal manner. On 30 June, along with the noble Lord, Lord Alderdice, and the noble Baronesses, Lady Coussins, Lady Hooper and Lady Stern, at a virtual briefing organised by ABColombia, we heard first hand from Danilo Rueda of the Inter-Church Justice and Peace Commission what it means to be a human rights defender and live with the daily threat to his life.

The Government have reassured me that they are aware of these allegations, they expect state authorities to comply fully with their human rights obligations and are committed to protecting human rights in Colombia. The Government of President Iván Duque has directed the Defence Minister to investigate. However, corruption in Colombia is systemic. Action is needed to address the culture of abuse and the sense that the army is above the law. For example, it makes little sense to denounce human rights violations and simultaneously appoint an officer with General Martínez Espinel’s history to lead their army. Will the Minister agree to a meeting with a delegation of parliamentarians and representatives of NGOs who support peace and the protection of human rights in Colombia? This would allow them to make the case for the powers in these regulations to be considered for use in respect of identified public officials and other actors there?