UN Calls on Colombia to End Killings

News from Colombia | on: Thursday, 1 May 2008

Senior United Nations officials have protested to the Colombian authorities about the recent increase in killings, harassment and intimidation of human rights activists and trade unionists. In a joint statement Hina Jilani, the UN's special investigator on the situation of human rights defenders, Philip Alston, the special investigator for extrajudicial executions, and Leandro Despouy, the special investigator for judicial independence, said that the recent attacks had largely been directed against people who organized or took part in the March 6th national day of protest intended to honour victims of paramilitary and state-sponsored violence.

Their statement, which pointed out that over 20 trade union officials and civil society leaders have recently been murdered, called on the Colombian regime "to take concrete steps to give public recognition and legitimacy to human rights defenders and their work ... by way of firm condemnation of crimes, threats and attacks... and by acknowledging the importance of their work."

"We ... call upon the [Colombian] government to provide more effective and consistent protection measures for defenders at risk as a matter of urgency," declared the investigators in a statement issued through the UN's Geneva office.

In recent weeks US trade unionists have also been urging Democrats in Congress to block a proposed US-Colombia Free Trade Agreement because of concerns about human rights. A letter from 63 members of the US Congress said that Colombia's government was indirectly encouraging attacks against labor leaders by allowing a presidential adviser to link the victims to leftist rebels.

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