Response from Justice to Colombia to the Foreign Secretary's Statement on Colombia

Justice For Colombia News | on: Friday, 3 April 2009

Positive First Step but Bulk of UK Military Aid to Continue - All Military Aid Must End

Justice for Colombia (JFC) welcomes the move by the Government earlier this week to end some of the UK military aid programme to Colombia. We recognise and are very grateful for the work and commitment of the ministers who have been involved in this decision.

We also welcome the recognition, in the Foreign Office's statement, that Colombian soldiers are involved in human rights abuses. JFC has been highlighting such abuses for many years and, as a result, has been calling on the Government to end their military aid to Colombia.

However, despite the recent move to cut back elements of the aid program, the bulk of UK military assistance to Colombia, officially labelled 'counter-narcotics' work, will apparently continue. The financial value of this assistance, as well as details about the military units or personnel that benefit, remains shrouded in secrecy.

JFC strongly believes that without transparency it is impossible to verify whether or not such assistance is benefiting those that abuse human rights. We also believe that it is wrong to provide unconditional military aid without any reference to human rights improvements - a position shared by the Foreign Affairs Select Committee which describes UK military aid to Colombia as 'inappropriate'.

The UN High Commissioner for Human Rights recently accused the Colombian Army of being involved in "widespread and systematic" murders of civilians. Democrats in the US Congress have frozen tens of millions of dollars in aid to the Colombian military due to human rights concerns.

We believe that all UK assistance to the Colombian security forces, including counter-narcotics assistance, should end.

The ongoing assassination of trade unionists, human rights defenders and members of the political opposition, among many others, continues unabated in Colombia. Hundreds of innocent people remain jailed or under investigation on spurious, politically-motivated legal charges.

Impunity remains the norm in cases of human rights abuses. In addition, senior members of the Colombian Government, including the President himself, continue to publicly attack those that speak out in favour of human rights.

So long as this situation continues we believe that it is inappropriate for the British Government to continue providing any amount of secret military aid to the Colombian Army.

The Foreign Office needs to go further: Until such time as the Colombian regime implements the human rights recommendations made by the United Nations, military aid should be replaced by humanitarian and development assistance that will truly benefit the people of Colombia.

Jeremy Dear, Chair

Mary Bousted, Vice-Chair

Keith Sonnet, Vice-Chair

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