Smear Endangers Colombian Group

Justice For Colombia News | on: Sunday, 23 March 2008

On Saturday 22nd March The Guardian newspaper printed a letter from a group of British lawyers and journalists who participated in a 2006 Justice for Colombia fact-finding mission to Colombia. In their letter the group expressed outrage at recent remarks made by Foreign Office Minister Kim Howells connecting JFC to the FARC guerrilla group.

Below is a copy of the letter. To see it on The Guardian website visit http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2008/mar/22/colombia.humanrights

Smear endangers Colombian group

We are lawyers and a journalist who went on a human rights delegation to Colombia in May 2006 which was organised by Justice for Colombia (JFC), and would like to express our outrage at the remarks of Kim Howells connecting that organisation with the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (Diary, March 21).

This is exactly the kind of tactic that Colombian president Álvaro Uribe uses to smear human-rights lawyers and trade unionists campaigning for social justice, to distract attention from the human-rights violations perpetrated by his government, the army and the paramilitaries who have almost total immunity for egregious abuses. In a similar vein, Howells smears JFC in a vain attempt to distract attention from his evident pleasure in the company of General Mario Montoya, the commander of the Colombian national army who was last year named in a US House of Representatives report as the subject of allegations of extensive collaboration with terrorist paramilitary organisations.

In Colombia, the smear of Farc association or support routinely results in assassination attempts against those so labelled. Kim Howells' remarks have done untold damage to the small and courageous group comprising JFC. You can be sure they will be eagerly replayed by Uribe, the army and their supporters in Colombia. For JFC, it will make their solidarity work in Colombia even more difficult and dangerous.

Frances Webber & Smita Shah, Garden Court Chambers

Karen Mitchell & Anna Konzon, Thompsons Solicitors

Tess Gill, Old Square Chambers

Henrietta Hill, Doughty Street Chambers

Lionel Blackman, Lucy Anderson, Pat Wheeler



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