Lawyers Enrique Santiago and Mark Burton meet MPs and trade unionists in London and Belfast

Justice For Colombia News | on: Friday, 24 November 2017

Following growing concern over the implementation of Colombia's peace agreement and an escalation in politically-motivated killings, Justice for Colombia (JFC) organised a visit to London and Belfast by the lawyers Enrique Santiago and Mark Burton during 20-22 November.

Enrique Santiago is a legal advisor to the FARC and involved in the peace negotiations between the Colombian government and the FARC. He co-drafted the peace agreement's groundbreakingtransitional justice mechanism, known as the Special Jurisdiction for Peace. He has worked on human rights cases in several other Latin American countries.

Mark Burton has represented FARC member Simón Trinidad since 2014. Trinidad was convicted in 2008 of conspiring to kidnap three US contractors and sentenced to 60 years imprisonment. He is currently held at a maximum security prison in Denver, Colorado. According to Burton, Trinidad has been subjected to inhumane and cruel prison conditions.

During Burton and Santiago's visit, JFC organised meetings in London and Belfast with politicians, trade unions and the general public.

On Monday 20 November, JFC took Mark Burton to Belfast, where he met with:

• Sinn Fein politicians at the Tar Anall centre for former prisoners. The meeting was attended by Sinn Fein, Justice for Colombia and Mark Burton.

• The Reverend Harold Good, one of two independent witnesses who observed the IRA's decommission of weapons during the Northern Ireland peace process. He visited Colombia with JFC in 2015.

• John McAllister of the Northern Ireland Human Rights Commission and a former member of the Northern Ireland Assembly. In 2012 and 2013, he visited Colombia and the peace negotiators in Havana with JFC.

• Patricia McKeown, regional secretary of UNISON Northern Ireland, who was with JFC at the signing of the peace agreement in Cartagena, Colombia, in 2016.

On Tuesday 21 November, JFC organised meetings for Burton and Santiago in London with:

• Labour Party MPs (also members of Parliamentary Friends of Colombia) Jo Stevens, Tony Lloyd, Clive Efford, Chris Matheson and Labour Party Chair Ian Lavery. Stevens, Lloyd and Lavery have previously visited Colombia with JFC.

• The Rt. Hon. Sir Jeffrey Donaldson MP of the Northern Ireland Democratic Unionist Party, who has visited Colombia and Cuba with JFC.

• Helen Goodman MP, the shadow minister for Latin America.

• Human rights lawyers from the Haldane Society and trade union lawyers from Thompsons Solicitors.

• JFC also organised a packed public meeting with Burton and Santiago at Unite the Union's offices in central London.

On Wednesday 22 November, a meeting took place between Enrique Santiago and JFC Director Mariela Kohon with UK Government Minister for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs, Sir Alan Duncan MP.

Several factors threaten Colombia's peace process. As well as slow implementation of the agreement's core terms, the Colombian congress has introduced changes to the transitional justice mechanism which could potentially provide impunity for human rights violators.

More than 120 political activists, trade unionists and social organisers have been murdered in 2017. In addition, almost 40 demobilised FARC members or their close family members have been killed.

Mariela Kohon, director of Justice for Colombia said:

'One year after the signing of the peace agreement, we are facing a situation where many elements due to be implemented haven’t been, and those that are, are facing changes that fundamentally distort the peace agreement. The international community must help ensure that the terms of the agreement are fully respected and implemented and that Colombia's future is one of stable and lasting peace'.

Watch video of Mariela Kohon's presentation at the JFC special meeting

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