Political Prisoners' Conference Opens Amidst Onslaught of Repression in Prisons

News from Colombia | on: Saturday, 4 June 2011

On 4th and 5th of June Colombian human rights NGOs, trade unions and opposition political parties held a national conference in Bogota on the situation of Colombia’s political prisoners. The event, which was co-sponsored by Justice for Colombia, was organised to highlight the existence of thousands political prisoners currently being held in Colombia’s jails. Political prisoners were included in the event, sending written testimonies and participating by telephone. Prisoners had also organised a series of activities of peaceful civil disobedience in their prisons, designed to highlight the abuse of their human rights.

INPEC, the Colombian prison service, dubbed the day of disobedience a “day of sabotage and protest” stirring up allegations that prisoners were preparing violent actions, in order to justify the measures they then took to repress the prisoners.

In the Buen Pastor women’s prison, Liliany Obando, one of the political prisoners JFC is campaigning for, was removed in the middle of the night from Patio 6 where she was being held, and taken to a high security cell elsewhere in the prison. In Combita prison more than 30 prisoners were taken from their cells and transferred to an as yet unknown destination. In Valledupar, the prisoners had their weekly visits cancelled. Prisoners in Valledupar only receive drinking water for 5 minutes each day – one of the reasons behind the national day of prisoner disobedience.

The abuses were denounced at the two day conference, which former senator Piedad Cordoba, Senator Gloria Ramirez and Congressman Hernando Hernandez spoke at, as well as several former prisoners. The conference, despite the repression, was a huge success, with hundreds of trade unionists and human rights activists attending, as well as delegates from the US and UK.

Colombia holds thousands of political prisoners including trade unionists, community leaders, peasant farmers, human rights activists, students and academics. The conditions they are held in are inhumane, with prisoners routinely being denied medical attention, educational materials, and being subjected to overcrowding and malnourishment and are often subjected to physical violence and other forms of torture.



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