MPs, Union Leaders, Lawyers, Call on FCO to Speak Out on Colombia’s Political Prisoners

Justice For Colombia News | on: Tuesday, 17 March 2009

Over 60 British union leaders, MPs, lawyers, Labour Party figures, academics and others who have visited political prisoners held in appalling conditions in Colombia's jails have called on British Foreign Office Minister Gillian Merron to speak out about their situation. Ms Merron recently told Parliament that she was aware of 'allegations' that there were political prisoners in Colombia but those that signed an open letter to her say "We can assure you from personal experience that these are more than 'allegations' – they are real and very credible cases of people being jailed for their opposition to the Colombian regime."

To follow is the full text of the letter and the names of those who signed it. When Ms Merron replies Justice for Colombia will post her response on this site.

Rt Hon Gillian Merron MP

Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State

Foreign & Commonwealth Office

King Charles Street, London

SW1A 2AH

16th March 2009

Dear Ms Merron,

We write in relation to your recent statement in Parliament that you are concerned by "allegations" that people are being jailed for long periods in Colombia because of their political views. Given that this is the first time that the FCO have acknowledged that there may be political prisoners in Colombia we cautiously welcome that statement.

We have all been to Colombia, visited prisons and spoken with trade unionists, human rights defenders and other civil society activists that were being held without having been convicted of any crime whatsoever.

It was clear to all of us that the Colombian regime regularly jails their political opponents only to release them without charge many months, or sometimes years, later. On many occasions the detentions are targeted at key individuals in trade unions and other organisations in order to weaken those organisations. We believe that this victimisation occurs with sufficient frequency to be described as systematic.

We can assure you from personal experience that these are more than 'allegations' – they are real and very credible cases of people being jailed for their opposition to the Colombian regime. Therefore, a further statement from you clarifying the FCO's position and recognising the reality of this situation would be extremely welcome.

Yours sincerely,

Richard Ascough, Southern Region Secretary, GMB trade union

Adrian Askew, General Secretary, Connect trade union

Phil Authers, Prospect trade union

Adam Baird, Researcher, Peace Studies Department, Bradford University

Sharon Banga, Thompsons Solicitors

Jerry Bartlett, Deputy General Secretary, NASUWT trade union

Mary Bousted, General Secretary, Association of Teachers and Lecturers (ATL)

Colin Burgon, Labour MP

Richard Burgon, Thompsons Solicitors

Gail Cartmail, Assistant General Secretary, Unite the Union

Katy Clark, Labour MP

Jeremy Corbyn, Labour MP

Liam Craig-Best, Justice for Colombia

Katherine Craig, Christian Khan Solicitors and Vice Chair of the Haldane Society

Maire Daley, National Executive Committee Member, University and College Union (UCU)

Gareth Davies, President, Community trade union

Jeremy Dear, General Secretary, National Union of Journalists (NUJ)

Gerry Doherty, General Secretary, TSSA trade union

John Drake, Southwest Region Secretary, Fire Brigades Union (FBU)

Simon Dubbins, Director of International Relations, Unite the Union

Matt Dykes, Policy Officer, Southern and Eastern Region TUC

Andy Frampton, South East Region Secretary, Unite the Union

Brian Garvey, Past President, NASUWT trade union

Sam Green, Photographer

Tom Harrison, Principal Executive Committee Member, ACCORD trade union

Natalie Jacottet, Researcher, Communication Workers Union (CWU)

Steve Jones, National Executive Committee Member, Communication Workers Union (CWU)

Tom Jones, Director of Policy and Public Affairs, Thompsons Solicitors

Malcolm Keight, Head of Higher Education, University and College Union (UCU)

Mariela Kohon, Justice for Colombia

Sally Kosky, National Officer, Unite the Union

Hugh Lanning, Deputy General Secretary, Public and Commercial Services Union (PCS)

Anne McCormack, Northwest Deputy Regional Convenor, UNISON trade union

Clare Mellor, Partner, Thompsons Solicitors

June Minnery, National Executive Committee Member, GMB trade union

Ivan Monckton, National Executive Committee Member, Unite the Union

Judy Moorhouse OBE, National Executive Committee Member, National Union of Teachers (NUT)

Pablo Navarrete, Phd Student, Peace Studies Department, Bradford University

Julia Neal, National Executive Committee Member, Association of Teachers and Lecturers (ATL)

Marianne Owens, Revenue & Customs Executive, Public and Commercial Services Union (PCS)

Mark Plumb, National Executive Committee Member, Unite the Union

Krupa Raithatha, USDAW trade union

Ellie Reeves, Labour Party National Executive Committee

Andy Richards, Wales Region Secretary, Unite the Union

Ben Richards, International Officer, Unite the Union

Ian Richards, CYWU section National Committee Member, Unite the Union

Mick Rix, National Officer, GMB trade union

Dr Angela Roger, Honorary Secretary, University and College Union Scotland (UCU)

Jessie Russel, National Executive Committee Member, UNISON trade union

Geoffrey Shears, Chief Executive Officer, Thompsons Solicitors

Jackie Simpkins, Trades Union Officer, War on Want

Fiona Smith, National Executive Committee Member, UNISON trade union

Cath Speight, Chair of the Labour Party National Executive Committee

Pat Stuart, National Executive Committee Member, Unite the Union

Chris Tansley, National Executive Committee Member, UNISON trade union

Enrico Tortolano, Research and Policy Officer, Public and Commercial Services Union (PCS)

Howard Turner, National Executive Committee Member, Unite the Union

Linda Webb-Thornton, Local Government Service Group Executive, UNISON trade union

Mick Whelan, District Organiser, ASLEF trade union

Mel Whitter, Regional Organiser, Unite the Union



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