FCO Expresses Concern for Colombian Political Prisoners

Justice For Colombia News | on: Wednesday, 28 January 2009

Justice for Colombia has welcomed comments by British Foreign Office Minister Gillian Merron in which she expresses concern for those held in jail in Colombia "because of their political views or activities". The Minister's statement, made yesterday, is significant in that it is believed to be the first time that the British Government has formally expressed its unease at the Colombian regime's practice of jailing political opponents without trial.

The issue came up after Labour MP Katy Clark tabled a parliamentary question asking whether the British Government had made representations "to the Colombian government on political prisoners being held for long periods in Colombia jails without having been convicted of any crime."

The Minister answered that both through the Colombian Embassy in London and via the British Embassy in Bogota "we have raised specific cases of concern of people who have been detained for long periods without trial," and added that "we are aware of serious allegations that people in Colombia are being imprisoned or charged with offences because of their political views or activities".

Reacting to the statement, Justice for Colombia's president Brendan Barber said, "We welcome the Government's expression of concern for Colombia's political prisoners. It is vital that the international community increases the pressure on the Colombian regime so that the many innocent men and women being held for political reasons are released without delay."

Justice for Colombia Chair Jeremy Dear added, "The conditions that trade unionists, members of the political opposition and others opposed to the regime are held in are appalling and it is very encouraging that the British Government have made it clear to the Colombians that the practice of jailing people for their political beliefs is unacceptable. JFC will continue campaigning on behalf of those still being held unjustly and welcomes any support for our efforts that the British Government can provide."

Estimates of the numbers of political prisoners being held in Colombia's prisons vary widely with some sources claiming only a few hundred are held whilst others allege the number is closer to 6 or 7,000. To visit the JFC political prisoners campaign page click here.

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