The General Secretary of ASLEF, the British train drivers’ union, has written to Colombian authorities over the high levels of insecurity impacting the Memoria Viva trade union, which represents bodyguards and security personnel. Mick Whelan, who is also president of Justice for Colombia, expressed concern over the murders of six Memoria Viva members, as well as further cases of forced disappearance, harassment, threats and forced displacement.
The letter was addressed to Augusto Rodríguez, the director of the National Protection Unit (UNP), a state-run body responsible for providing security to at-risk individuals and collectives. Most of the union’s more than 600 members are affiliated to the UNP, either as employees or via third-parties, while around two-thirds are former FARC guerrillas who provide protection to other former guerrillas.
As a JFC delegate, Mick met with Memoria Viva in Bogota in June 2022. Delegates heard about the attacks on the union and how this was seriously impeding the union’s ability to organise. Other delegates included the general secretary of the POA prison officers union, Steve Gillen, who also recently wrote to the UNP over attacks on Memoria Viva.
The letter asks that the UNP take steps to implement measures issued by the Special Jurisdiction for Peace (JEP), the transitional justice court created in the 2016 peace agreement, last August. The JEP declared that Memoria Viva members were being targeted over their trade union activity and in their capacity as former guerrillas in the peace process. It ordered the UNP to implement security measures and to provide details on a plan of protection for the union. Despite giving a deadline of a few weeks, the union says these still have not been put into place.
While the ASLEF letter recognises the important role of the UNP in strengthening the peace process, it also asks that the JEP’s resolutions be implemented without further delay.
You can read or download the letter below.