Colombia: Human Rights

Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs written question – answered on 22nd October 2008.

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Photo of Tom Brake Tom Brake Shadow Minister (Olympics and London), Shadow Minister (Home Affairs), Liberal Democrat Spokesperson (Home Affairs), Liberal Democrat Spokesperson (Olympics and London)

To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what recent representations the Government has made to the Colombian Government on attacks on human rights defenders.

Photo of Gillian Merron Gillian Merron Parliamentary Under-Secretary, Foreign & Commonwealth Office

My right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary stressed the UK's support for the work of civil society organisations and human rights defenders to the Colombian Foreign Minister when they met in London on 9 October, which I reiterated when I spoke to the Colombian Foreign Minister on 16 October.

We have repeatedly made clear to the Colombian Government that human rights defenders' work should be protected and promoted. We have done so publicly, with my hon. Friend Dr. Howells commenting as the Minister of State with responsibility for South America in April 2008:

"The situation for trade unionists, human rights defenders and indeed other Colombians continues to be very serious, I call on the Colombian Government to do its utmost to ensure that the brave people of Colombia striving for the protection of human rights are allowed to do their vital work safely and without fear, and that the perpetrators of threats, violence and murder are pursued and held accountable for their actions, whoever they are."

We are matching this advocacy with practical help, through assistance to help strengthen civil society organisations and the role they play in democracy, and raising cases with the authorities to ensure that swift action is taken and justice is seen to be done.

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