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Canada's Parliament must not Approve a Free Trade Agreement with Colombia

A communiqué from Colombia's biggest union about the Canada-Colombia FTA

by Central Workers Union of Colombia (CUT)


The situation of unionists in Colombia has not improved, quite the contrary, as of today, November 23, 2009, there are 35 compañeros who have been assassinated [this year], five of them in the last month.

The UN's Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights defenders, Margaret Sekagguya, in a September 18, 2009 declaration, said:

While I acknowledge the above-mentioned efforts of the Government to improve the situation of human rights defenders, much remains to be done to ensure a safe and conducive environment for human rights defenders.

From what I have seen and heard over the past 12 days, I can conclude that patterns of harassment and persecution against human rights defenders, and often their families, continue to exist in Colombia.

Journalists, trade unionists, magistrates, lawyers, student and youth activists, women defenders, indigenous and Afro-Colombian leaders, and LGBT activists have been killed, tortured, ill-treated, disappeared, threatened, arbitrarily arrested and detained, judicially harassed, under surveillance, forcibly displaced, forced into exile, or their offices have been raided and their files stolen, because of their legitimate work in upholding human rights and fundamental freedoms.

Some of these violations are allegedly to be attributed to guerillas, new illegal armed groups and paramilitary groups which human rights defenders say have not been dismantled, and the Government bears the responsibility to denounce and thoroughly investigate these violations and prosecute the perpetrators.

However, according to several sources, law enforcement authorities have committed violations against human rights defenders too, or have shown complaisance with violations committed by private actors against defenders.

The violence against Indigenous communities has acquired the characteristics of massacres, and it presents itself in areas affected by narcotrafficking, the presence of armed groups, or the announcement of the exploitation large mining projects which do not respect Indigenous territories.

In our view, we are very far from achieving the respect for the freedom of union organizing and democracy, and the Government of Colombia is far from respecting the International Labour Organization's recomendations, and harmonizing its laws with international agreements it has ratified.

Unofficial translation by the Vancouver Media Co-op. Read original text in Spanish here.

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Journalist, co-founder VMC, ex-editor & board member with Media Co-op. Author, Drug War Capitalism.

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