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Dear [Member of Parliament's Name],
I am writing to you to express my deep concern that the Government is continuing to provide undisclosed amounts of military assistance to the Colombian security forces. As you will know, the Colombian military are involved in what the United Nations calls ‘widespread and systematic’ human rights abuses. There is also strong evidence that elements of the Colombian Army have links to illegal paramilitary groups and/or to drug trafficking activities.
Despite claims to the contrary made by members of the Colombian Government, it is clear that human rights abuses continue to be perpetrated on a daily basis in Colombia and that the Colombian State is responsible for the vast majority of the violations. These include:
- An increase in the number of trade unionists being murdered (Colombian remains the most dangerous place in the world in which to be a trade unionists);
- An increase in the numbers of journalists being murdered;
- An ongoing problem of extrajudicial executions, whereby members of the security forces kill innocent people;
- An ongoing problem with impunity, whereby the judicial system simply does not bring those responsible for human rights crimes to justice;
- Ongoing imprisonment, without conviction, of large numbers of trade unionists, human rights defenders, community leaders, etc, who have spoken out against Government policies.
Given this situation it is deeply disturbing that the UK continues to assist the Colombian security forces. Though our Government says that our assistance is for counternarcotics work the reality of the situation is that the Colombian Ministry of Defence makes no distinction between counternarcotics and counterinsurgency operations. This is worrying given that the Colombian Attorney General is currently looking at over 2,000 cases in which civilians have been murdered by the Army during so-called ‘counterinsurgency’ operations.
The British Government has no way of knowing if those that are benefiting from UK assistance are involved in human rights violations and have repeatedly refused to give Parliament, or the wider public, any details about the assistance provided – including its financial value, what exactly it consists of, and who exactly, in Colombia, is benefiting from it. This lack of transparency is completely unjustified and goes against the principles of open and transparent government.
As you will be aware, the Foreign Affairs Select Committee has described the British military assistance program to Colombia as ‘inappropriate’. It is also opposed by Amnesty International and broad sectors of Colombian civil society who have publicly called on the British Government to divert their assistance away from the security forces and instead support housing, health and educational programs for those who need it most in Colombia.
At a time when the Government is cutting back so drastically on public spending in this country, it is impossible to justify the continued provision of military assistance to the Colombian regime. Not only is it absurd from a financial perspective, but aiding one of the militaries with the worst human rights records in the world is morally reprehensible.
I would therefore urge you to speak out and make clear to the Government that their ongoing provision of assistance to the Colombian security forces is not something that you support.
I look forward to hearing your thoughts on this issue.