Questions in British parliament on peace and human rights in Colombia

Issues of peace and human rights in Colombia continue to be raised in the British parliament. MPs have submitted several questions to the government. You can review the questions and responses below.

Tony Lloyd MP (Labour), 21 July 2022

To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Affairs, whether her Department is providing support to former FARC combatants in Colombia forcibly displaced to Doncello, Caquetá in the context of a lack of security in their reincorporation zone.

Vicky Ford MP, Minister for Africa, Latin America and the Caribbean

To date, the UK has spent over £69 million through the Conflict, Stability and Security Fund (CSSF) to support the implementation of the Peace Agreement in Colombia. Our funding is supporting the Colombian Government’s rural development and reintegration programmes, transitional justice mechanisms, and strengthening the security and participation of the communities in conflict-affected areas, such as Caquetá.

We will continue to support the Colombian Government in its commitment to implement the 2016 Peace Accords and ensure the protection and safety of former FARC combatants.

Fabian Hamilton MP, Shadow Minister for Peace and Disarmament, Latin America and the Caribbean (Labour), 21 July 2022

To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Affairs, what assessment she has made of the implications for her policies of the final report of the Colombian Truth Commission, published in June 2022.

Vicky Ford MP, Minister for Africa, Latin America and the Caribbean

The UK welcomes the publication of the Truth Commission’s final report, a significant milestone in Colombia’s reconciliation process. The Truth Commission’s final report provides a definitive account of the facts of the conflict in Colombia, derived from thousands of interviews with over 30,000 people.

To date, we have spent over £69 million through the Conflict, Stability and Security Fund (CSSF) to support the implementation of the Peace Agreement in Colombia. As part of this funding, the UK Government has contributed over £26 million towards transitional justice mechanisms, which includes the vital work of the Truth Commission. We are committed to helping all parties implement the Commission’s recommendations, and to supporting the follow-up committee that will supervise their implementation.

Tony Lloyd MP (Labour), 20 July 2022

To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department, with reference to the National Crime Agency’s website and media reports, whether the National Crime Agency has taken steps to ensure (a) training of and (b) assistance with the collection of intelligence to Colombian officials does not endanger (i) human rights defenders, (ii) opposition politicians and (iii) journalists in that country, including through (A) potentially unwarranted surveillance and (B) targeted reprisals.

Tom Pursglove MP, Minister for Crime & Policing

The NCA works with law enforcement partners around the world. In Colombia, the Agency works with the Colombian National Police and the Office of the Attorney General of Colombia. This activity is focused on reducing the threat to the UK from the cocaine trade in Colombia and the region, as well as disrupting the money laundering and other criminal economies linked to drugs trafficking and other organised crime.

When cooperating and sharing intelligence with its international law enforcement partners, the National Crime Agency must comply with the Overseas Security and Justice Assistance guidance, which enables assessments to be made about the human rights and reputational risks of international security and justice work undertaken by the UK. It is also subject to the Principles relating to the detention and interviewing of detainees overseas and the passing and receipt of intelligence relating to detainees.

Tony Lloyd MP (Labour), 20 July 2022

To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department, whether the National Crime Agency is able to (a) vet policing personnel to be trained in Colombia and (b) monitor policing personnel already trained in Colombia to ensure they are not responsible for any future serious human rights violations including extra-judicial killings, disappearances and torture.

Tom Pursglove MP, Minister for Crime & Policing

The NCA works with law enforcement partners around the world. In Colombia, the Agency works with the Colombian National Police and the Office of the Attorney General of Colombia. This activity is focused on reducing the threat to the UK from the cocaine trade in Colombia and the region, as well as disrupting the money laundering and other criminal economies linked to drugs trafficking and other organised crime.

When cooperating and sharing intelligence with its international law enforcement partners, the National Crime Agency must comply with the Overseas Security and Justice Assistance guidance, which enables assessments to be made about the human rights and reputational risks of international security and justice work undertaken by the UK. It is also subject to the Principles relating to the detention and interviewing of detainees overseas and the passing and receipt of intelligence relating to detainees.

Kate Osborne MP (Labour), 19 July 2022

To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Affairs, what assessment she has made of the implications for her policies of reports that a recent attack by armed groups in the Colombian village of Puerto Guzmán, Putumayo killed the president of a cooperative established by former FARC combatants and injured several others.

Vicky Ford MP, Minister for Africa, Latin America and the Caribbean

The British Government remains concerned about the persistent level of violence towards former FARC combatants. We will continue to support the Colombian Government in its commitment to implement the 2016 Peace Accords and ensure the protection and safety of former FARC combatants.

Through our Conflict, Stability, and Security Fund programme, which has provided £69 million in support of Peace Agreement implementation, security, and stability in Colombia since 2015, we will continue to prioritise funding interventions that help to protect former FARC combatants and other groups affected by violence.

Angus Brendan MacNeil MP (SNP), 18 July 2022

To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Affairs, what assessment she has made of the effectiveness of the Colombian government’s implementation of the 2016 peace agreement’s first chapter on comprehensive rural reform.

Vicky Ford MP, Minister for Africa, Latin America and the Caribbean

Comprehensive rural reform is an important commitment in the 2016 Peace Agreement, and considerable progress has been made on this during the first five years of implementation. As emphasised by our Permanent Representative to the UN at the UN Security Council on 14 July, we look to the Colombian Government to accelerate this progress and further advance rural development to support the transformation of conflict-affected regions and their communities.

To date, we have spent over £69 million through the Conflict, Stability and Security Fund (CSSF) to support the implementation of the Peace Agreement in Colombia and improve stability and security. Our funding is supporting the Colombian Government’s rural development and reintegration programmes, transitional justice mechanisms, and strengthening the security and participation of communities in conflict-affected areas.

Bell Ribeiro-Addy MP (Labour), 18 July 2022

To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Affairs, whether her Department has made an assessment of the Colombian government’s progress on investigating alleged police killings during protests in that country in (a) September 2020 and (b) April and May 2021.

Vicky Ford MP, Minister for Africa, Latin America and the Caribbean

The British Government remains concerned about reports of human rights violations in Colombia during recent protests. We are clear that we support the right of all Colombians to protest peacefully, and that the right to peaceful assembly and association must be guaranteed.

We look to the Colombian authorities to investigate fully any excessive use of force and take appropriate action against those responsible. Members of the Security services must also be held accountable for their actions, and all complaints thoroughly investigated.

Fabian Hamilton MP, Shadow Minister for Peace and Disarmament, Latin America and the Caribbean (Labour), 18 July 2022

To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Affairs, what discussions she has had with her Argentine counterpart following the deportation of Colombian lawyer, Diego Martinez, from Argentina to that country.

Vicky Ford MP, Minister for Africa, Latin America and the Caribbean

UK ministers and senior officials regularly raise human rights issues, as well as specific cases of concern, with the Colombian Government and in multilateral fora. Most recently, Lord Ahmad discussed human rights and the security situation in Colombia in his meeting with President Duque on 12 April. I [Minister Ford] also discussed human rights concerns with Vice-President and Foreign Minister Ramírez on 10 February.

Immigration and border decisions are a matter for the two countries. The UK expects all countries to follow their international obligations in respect of deportations.

Fabian Hamilton MP, Shadow Minister for Peace and Disarmament, Latin America and the Caribbean (Labour), 18 July 2022

To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Affairs, what discussions she has had with her Colombian counterpart on the deportation of Diego Martinez from Argentina to Colombia.

Vicky Ford MP, Minister for Africa, Latin America and the Caribbean

UK ministers and senior officials regularly raise human rights issues, as well as specific cases of concern, with the Colombian Government and in multilateral fora. Most recently, Lord Ahmad discussed human rights and the security situation in Colombia in his meeting with President Duque on 12 April. I [Minister Ford] also discussed human rights concerns with Vice-President and Foreign Minister Ramírez on 10 February.

Immigration and border decisions are a matter for the two countries. The UK expects all countries to follow their international obligations in respect of deportations.

Ellie Reeves MP (Labour), 18 July 2022

To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Affairs, whether she has made representations to her Colombian counterpart on the effectiveness of the dismantling of paramilitary groups in that country following the 2016 peace agreement.

Vicky Ford MP, Minister for Africa, Latin America and the Caribbean

Colombia is a UK Human Rights Priority Country and UK ministers and senior officials regularly raise our concerns about the activities of illegal armed groups with the Colombian Government and in multilateral fora. Most recently, Lord Ahmad discussed human rights and the security situation in Colombia in his meeting with President Duque on 12 April. Successive UK-drafted UN Security Council press statements have called for the National Commission on Security Guarantees, working with civil society, to adopt and implement a public policy to dismantle illegal armed groups.

To date, we have spent over £69 million through the Conflict, Stability and Security Fund to support the implementation of the Peace Agreement in Colombia and improve stability and security. Our funding is supporting the Colombian Government’s rural development and reintegration programmes, transitional justice mechanisms, and strengthening the security and participation of communities in conflict-affected areas.

Jim Shannon MP (DUP), 15 July 2022

To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Affairs, whether she has had discussions with the president-elect of Colombia since 19 June 2022.

Vicky Ford MP, Minister for Africa, Latin America and the Caribbean

The Foreign Secretary has not yet had discussions with the president-elect. The Prime Minister wrote to Gustavo Petro last month to congratulate him on his election and our Embassy is in close contact with the president-elect’s team. We look forward to working with him after his inauguration on 7 August 2022.

Mary Kelly Foy MP (Labour), 15 July 2022

To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Affairs, with reference to the Answer to the Question from the hon. Member for City of Durham on 21 June 2022, Official Report, column 695, what assessment she has made of the adequacy of the Colombian government’s investigation of the (a) killing of civilians and (b) actions of the military in Alto Remanso in Putumayo on 28 March 2022.

Vicky Ford MP, Minister for Africa, Latin America and the Caribbean

Colombia is an Foreign Commonwealth and Development Office Human Rights Priority Country and UK ministers and senior officials regularly raise human rights issues, as well as specific cases of concern, with the Colombian Government. Most recently, Lord (Tariq) Ahmad of Wimbledon discussed human rights and the security situation in Colombia in his meeting with President Duque on 12 April. I [Minister Ford] also discussed human rights concerns with Vice-President and Foreign Minister Ramírez on 10 February.

Lloyd Russell-Moyle MP (Labour), 22 June 2022

To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Affairs, what recent discussions she has had with her Colombian counterpart on human rights in that country?

Vicky Ford MP, Minister for Africa, Latin America and the Caribbean

Colombia is an FCDO Human Rights Priority Country and UK ministers and senior officials regularly raise human rights issues, as well as specific cases of concern, with the Colombian Government.

Most recently, Lord Ahmad discussed human rights and the security situation in Colombia in his meeting with President Duque on 12 April.

Kim Johnson MP (Labour), 21 June 2022

On Sunday, Francia Márquez, an internationally recognised environmental and human rights campaigner, made history by becoming the first black woman to be elected Vice-President of Colombia. Colombia is the most dangerous place in the world to be an environmental activist. Will the Minister commit herself to working with Francia Márquez and her new colleagues to ensure that the social and environmental rights of Colombia’s indigenous population are protected, and that UK aid for environmental programmes prioritises the protection of activists?

Vicky Ford MP, Minister for Africa, Latin America and the Caribbean

We work in Colombia on projects to promote peace and stability and also on projects to promote the environment and tackle climate change, and we will continue to do so.

Fabian Hamilton MP, Shadow Minister for Peace and Disarmament, Latin America and the Caribbean, 21 June 2022

I have just returned from Colombia as part of a delegation funded by Justice for Colombia, details of which will shortly be declared in the Register of Members’ Financial Interests.

Gustavo Petro’s victory in Colombia’s presidential election should provide new impetus towards the full implementation of the peace agreement in that divided country, but the UK Government have sat idly by as violence against social activists and indigenous peoples has raged on across the country.

As the penholder for Colombia at the United Nations, the UK has a responsibility to play its part, so will the Minister commit to changing course and working with the new Administration to finally bring this appalling violence to an end?

Vicky Ford MP, Minister for Africa, Latin America and the Caribbean

I absolutely refute the idea that the UK has been standing by. To date, we have spent more than £69 million through the Conflict, Stability and Security Fund. This is supporting the implementation of the peace agreement, and it has been supporting the Government’s rural developments, reintegration programmes and transitional justice mechanisms and strengthening the security and participation of communities in conflict-affected areas. We have also put in over £240 million of international climate funding in the past decade. That is helping to stabilise particularly vulnerable environmental areas by tackling environmental crime and the issues that affect local people. We will continue to prioritise that work, because stability in Colombia is vital for the whole of Latin America.

Chris Matheson MP (Labour), 21 June 2022

Colombia is once again the most dangerous country in the world in which to be a trade unionist, so when the Minister and the Government engage with President-elect Petro and his new Government will they ensure that the peace process, which is focused on the Government and the FARC, also includes the civil society and trade union groups on which we have perhaps taken our eye off the ball?

Vicky Ford MP, Minister for Africa, Latin America and the Caribbean

The honourable Member makes an important point about protecting civil society. Peace in Colombia was always going to be a difficult challenge, but we have been a leading advocate of that peace process. We will continue to prioritise support for the Colombian Government, and the new President has made it clear that he is committed to the peace process with the FARC, so we will continue to work with them.

Mary Kelly Foy MP (Labour), 21 June 2022

I’m sure the Minister will join me in congratulating Colombia on electing a new administration committed to peace and human rights under Gustavo Petro.

According to human rights groups, on 28th March the army killed several civilians in the village of Remanso in Putumayo, with outgoing President Ivan Duque later praising the attack and describing the victims as armed dissidents. Given the Colombian military has a history of killing civilians and then falsifying the record, what steps is the government taking to ensure a proper investigation is carried out?

Vicky Ford MP, Minister for Africa, Latin America and the Caribbean

Mr Speaker, we do congratulate Gustavo Petro on his election as President. We look forward to working with him after his inauguration in August on many issues of shared priorities. He’s made it very clear that he is committed to the peace process with the FARC. And can I also congratulate them on a peaceful election. Thank you.

Fabian Hamilton MP (Labour), 10 December 2021

To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Affairs, what assessment she has made of the Colombian government’s progress in investigating alleged police killings during protests in that country in September 2020.

To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Affairs, what assessment she has made of the Colombian government’s progress in investigating alleged police killings of protesters during protests in that country in April and May 2021.

Wendy Morton MP, Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for the European Neighbourhood & the Americas

The British Government remains concerned about reports of human rights violations in Colombia during recent protests. We are clear that we support the right of all Colombians to protest peacefully, and that the right to peaceful assembly and association should be guaranteed.

We look to the Colombian authorities to investigate fully any reports on excessive use of force against protestors, and take appropriate action against those responsible. Security services must be held accountable for their actions, and any complaints thoroughly investigated.

Kate Osborne MP (Labour), 30 November 2021

Last Wednesday marked the fifth anniversary of the Colombian peace agreement, but human rights abuses continue at an appalling rate. Particularly worrying are the more than 100 instances of eye trauma, mostly people being blinded as a result of police firing projectiles at protestors during the national strikes earlier this year. What assessment has the Secretary of State made of the Colombian Government’s investigations into this brutal police strategy against people who were exercising their democratic rights?

Amanda Milling MP, Minister of State in the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office

Colombia is an FCDO human rights priority country. We regularly raise human rights concerns with the Colombian Government and in multilateral fora too. Most recently, in fact last week, [the Under-Secretary of State for Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Affairs Wendy] Morton, visited Colombia and spoke to Vice President Ramírez about the human rights situation.

Neil Coyle MP (Labour), 25 November 2021

To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Affairs, what assessment she has made of the recent reports that 65 environmental defenders were murdered in Colombia in 2020.

Wendy Morton MP, Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for the European Neighbourhood & the Americas

The British Government remains concerned about the persistent level of violence towards human rights defenders and environmental activists in Colombia. Colombia is a UK Government ‘Human Rights Priority Country’ – UK ministers and senior officials regularly raise human rights issues, as well as specific cases of concern, with the Colombian Government, and in multilateral fora. Most recently, as the UK’s Minister for Europe and Americas, I spoke to Vice President Ramírez regarding the human rights situation on a visit to Colombia from 22-24 November.

Through our Conflict, Stability, and Security Fund (CSSF) programme, which has provided £68 million in support of peace agreement implementation, security, and stability in Colombia since 2015, we will continue to prioritise funding interventions to protect human rights defenders, including environmental activists, and social leaders.

Apsana Begum MP (Labour), 19 November 2021

To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Affairs, what assessment her Department has made of the circumstances surrounding the armed attack that killed trade unionist María Dorfenis López Cordón and injured Rigoberto Cabanzo Arévalo in the Colombian region of Meta on 29 August 2021.

Wendy Morton MP, Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for the European Neighbourhood & the Americas

The British Government remains concerned about the persistent level of violence towards human rights’ defenders and social leaders in Colombia. Through our Conflict, Stability, and Security Fund (CSSF), which has provided £68 million in support of peace agreement implementation, security, and stability in Colombia since 2015, we will continue to prioritise funding interventions to protect human rights’ defenders, including trade unionists, and social leaders.

Colombia is a UK ‘Human Rights Priority Country,’ and we consistently raise our concerns regarding violence against human rights defenders and social leaders at the UN Security Council, as we did at meetings in July, and on 14 October. We look to the Colombian Government to further integrate its presence in conflict-affected areas, and strengthen the institutions that can investigate and prosecute the criminal actors responsible. We will continue to raise our concerns with the relevant state actors in Colombia.

Kate Osborne MP (Labour), 15 November 2021

To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Affairs, if she will make representations to her Colombian counterpart on the death of former FARC combatant María Steffania Muñoz on 14 October 2021 after her partner, Yorbis Valencia, was similarly killed in July.

Wendy Morton MP, Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for the European Neighbourhood & the Americas

The British Government regularly raises concerns with Colombia regarding the persistent high levels of violence and threats towards former FARC combatants. Most recently, we raised the issue on 14 October at the UN Security Council meeting, at which the UN Secretary General’s Special Representative presented his quarterly report on Colombia’s peace process.

We will continue to support the Colombian Government’s commitment to assisting former combatants in transitioning to civilian life, as agreed as part of the 2016 peace agreement. We have committed more than £68million over 5 years through our Conflict, Stability, and Security Fund to support reintegration, rural development, and security across conflict-affected regions.

Navendu Mishra MP, 15 November 2021

To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Affairs, if she will make representations to her Colombian counterpart on the reported armed attack on the house of Colombian social activist Arnobis Zapata in which his 14-year-old son was injured

Wendy Morton MP, Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for the European Neighbourhood & the Americas

UK ministers and senior officials regularly raise human rights issues, as well as specific cases of concern, with the Colombian Government. Most recently, the UK’s Minister for the Environment, Lord Goldsmith, raised our concerns around violence and threats toward human rights and environmental defenders on a visit to Colombia from 5-8 October.

Colombia is a UK ‘Human Rights Priority Country,’ and we consistently raise our concerns regarding violence against human rights’ defenders and social leaders at the UN Security Council, as we did at meetings in July, and on 14 October. We look to the Colombian Government to further integrate its presence in conflict-affected areas, and strengthen the institutions that can investigate and prosecute the criminal actors responsible. We will continue to raise our concerns with the relevant state actors in Colombia.

Jim Shannon MP (DUP), 15 November 2021

To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Affairs, what discussions she has had with her Colombian counterpart on tackling (a) illegal mining, (b) cocaine production and (c) the trafficking of animals in Colombia.

Wendy Morton MP, Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for the European Neighbourhood & the Americas

UK ministers and senior officials regularly raise environmental issues, as well as specific cases of concern, directly with the Colombian Government and in multilateral fora. Most recently, the UK’s Minister for the Environment, Lord Goldsmith, discussed our concerns around environmental crime during his visit to Colombia 5-8 October.

Through the UK’s £68m CSSF (Conflict, Stability and Security Fund) programming in support of peace and stabilisation, we continue to support the elements of the peace agreement related to reducing coca production and trafficking. This has included a contribution to a $2 million multi-donor project for crop substitution and food security, as well as funding the provision of technical advisers to the Colombian Government office overseeing this work.

The British Government is at the forefront of international efforts to protect endangered animals from poaching and illegal trade, and we are committed to supporting Colombia to host the Second High Level Conference of the Americas on Illegal Wildlife Trade. This builds on the ground-breaking conference series, which began in London in 2014, has secured ambitious agreements from governments to take urgent, coordinated action against the illegal wildlife trade.

Mary Foy MP (Labour), 15 November 2021

To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Affairs, what assessment she has made of the accuracy of reports of threats against leaders of the ASCAMCAT rural organisation, Juan Carlos Quintero, Junior Maldonado and Olga Quintero, by armed groups in Catatumbo, Colombia.

Wendy Morton MP, Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for the European Neighbourhood & the Americas

The British Government remains concerned about the persistent level of violence towards human rights defenders and social leaders in Colombia. UK ministers and senior officials regularly raise human rights issues, as well as specific cases of concern, with the Colombian Government. Most recently, the UK’s Minister for the Environment, Lord Goldsmith, raised our concerns around violence and threats toward environmental defenders during his visit to Colombia 5-8 October.

Through our Conflict, Stability, and Security Fund (CSSF) programme, which has provided £68 million in support of peace agreement implementation, security, and stability in Colombia since 2015, we will continue to prioritise funding interventions to protect human rights defenders, including environmental activists, and social leaders.

Fabian Hamilton MP (Labour), 4 November 2021

To ask the Secretary of State for International Trade, what assessment she has made of the implications of the killing of 43 people by police in Colombia during protests in April and May 2021 for the UK-Andean trade agreement.

Penny Mordaunt MP, Minister of State for Trade Policy

We have raised our concerns with all levels of government in Colombia regarding human rights violations. We welcome the Colombian government’s commitment to transparent investigations into all allegations of excessive use of force, and to take appropriate action against those responsible.

Lord Jeffrey Evans (Crossbench), 27 October 2021

To ask Her Majesty’s Government what assessment they have made of the challenges faced by environmental defenders in (1) Colombia, and (2) other Latin American countries; and what guidance is available to British companies involved in sensitive sectors, such as mining.

Lord Zac Goldsmith, Minister of State for the Pacific and the International Environment

The British Government remain committed to delivering a broad human rights agenda across Latin America. Our programming across the region has included projects to strengthen democracy, protect civil society space by fostering freedom of expression and build capacity for local human rights defenders, which includes environmental activists.

As set out in the FCDO Annual Human Rights Report, we expect British businesses to respect local and international law wherever they operate. The UK was the first country to create a National Action Plan to implement the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights. This plan sets out what is expected of the conduct of UK businesses, including compliance with relevant laws and respect for human rights; treating the risk of causing human rights abuses as a legal compliance issue; adopting appropriate due diligence policies; and consulting those who could potentially be affected.

We remain concerned about the persistent level of violence and threats towards environmental defenders in Colombia and elsewhere in Latin America and we regularly raise human rights issues with the Colombian Government and in multilateral fora. Most recently, the UK’s Minister for the Environment, Lord Goldsmith, visited Colombia and raised our concerns around violence and threats toward environmental defenders on 5-8 October and discussed ways in which the UK can support the Colombian Government’s efforts to tackle that violence.

Patrick Grady MP (SNP), 26 October 2021

To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Affairs, what diplomatic steps she is taking to help protect environmental defenders in Colombia who potentially face threatening actions by international companies as a result of their lawful and legitimate protest against potential illicit activities on their land.

To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Affairs, what diplomatic steps she is taking to help protect environmental defenders in Colombia who may face threats and attacks for protecting their lands from corporate activity.

Wendy Morton MP, Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for the European Neighbourhood & the Americas

UK ministers and senior officials regularly raise human rights issues, as well as specific cases of concern, with the Colombian Government. Most recently, the UK’s Minister for the Environment, Lord Goldsmith, raised our concerns around violence and threats toward environmental defenders on a visit to Colombia from 5-8 October.

Colombia is a UK ‘Human Rights Priority Country,’ and we consistently raise our concerns regarding violence against human rights defenders and social leaders at the UN Security Council, as we did at meetings in July. and on 14 October. We will continue to raise our concerns with the relevant state actors in Colombia. Through our Conflict, Stability, and Security Fund (CSSF) programme, which has provided £63 million in support of peace agreement implementation, security, and stability in Colombia since 2015, we will continue to prioritise funding interventions to protect human rights defenders, including environmental activists, and social leaders.

Chris Matheson MP (Labour), 25 October 2021

To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Affairs, what diplomatic steps she is taking to help protect environmental defenders in Colombia who are being threatened by international companies as a result of their lawful and legitimate protest against illicit activities on their land.

To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Affairs, what diplomatic steps she is taking to help protect environmental defenders in Colombia who face potential threats and attacks for protecting their lands from corporate activity.

Wendy Morton MP, Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for the European Neighbourhood & the Americas

UK ministers and senior officials regularly raise human rights issues, as well as specific cases of concern, with the Colombian Government. The UK’s Minister for the Environment, Lord Goldsmith, raised our concerns around violence and threats toward environmental defenders on a visit to Colombia from 5-8 October.

Colombia is a UK ‘Human Rights Priority Country’ and we consistently raise our concerns regarding violence against human rights defenders and social leaders at the UN Security Council, as we did at meetings in July and on 14 October. We will continue to raise our concerns with the relevant state actors in Colombia.

Through our Conflict, Stability, and Security Fund (CSSF) programme, which has provided £63 million in support of peace agreement implementation, security, and stability in Colombia since 2015, we will continue to prioritise funding interventions to protect human rights defenders, including environmental activists, and social leaders.

Chris Matheson MP (Labour), 25 October 2021

To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Affairs, what assessment she has made for the implications of her policies of companies domiciled or listed in the UK threatening environmental defenders in Colombia with legal action, following lawful or legitimate protests on their land.

Wendy Morton MP, Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for the European Neighbourhood & the Americas

As set out in the FCDO Annual Human Rights Report, we expect British businesses to respect local and international law wherever they operate.

The UK was the first country to create a National Action Plan to implement the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights. This plan sets out what is expected of the conduct of UK businesses, including compliance with relevant laws and respect for human rights; treating the risk of causing human rights abuses as a legal compliance issue; adopting appropriate due diligence policies; and consulting those who could potentially be affected.

Kate Osborne MP (Labour), 21 October 2021

Ministers have repeatedly told this House that trade does not need to come at the expense of human rights, yet in Colombia this year alone 43 people were killed by police during protests in April and May. More than 100 social leaders have been murdered and former FARC combatants continue to be targeted at an appalling rate. Does the Secretary of State not agree that those are grounds to follow recent calls from Colombian trade unions and the TUC to suspend Colombia’s membership of the UK-Andean trade agreement by invoking its human rights clause?

Ranil Jayawardena MP, Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for International Trade

We will always look very closely at any abuses of rights and responsibilities around the world. The agreement the hon. Lady refers to is based on an EU agreement, which provided us and businesses across the country with continuity. It is important that we ensure we balance the objectives across our trade agreements to deliver benefits for British businesses. I know that British businesses across the north-east value greatly that agreement.

Baroness Christine Blower (Labour), 20 October 2021

(…) Colombia reacted reasonably quickly in the initial stages of the pandemic, but prolonged lockdown eventually led to a falling away of compliance as people needed to work, as the noble Baroness, Lady Coussins, said. In fact, many people have now lost gainful employment. Against the background of a high level of human rights abuses and serious opposition to proposed tax reforms, which would further entrench inequality, many Colombians have faced considerable harm at the hands of state forces in addition to the harm they faced from the pandemic. Armed groups have clearly taken advantage of the lockdown to wreak havoc in communities, with the UN observing huge increases in massacres, which were already all too common in Colombia.

It takes an enormous amount of courage to be a human rights defender, or even an active trade unionist, particularly a teacher trade unionist, in Colombia. The UN mission has called the number of deaths of human rights defenders an epidemic of violence, with 177 individuals killed in 2020. With what we hope will be the gradual subsiding of the pandemic, the focus must return to high-profile condemnation of the violence of the Colombian police and paramilitaries. Will the Minister ensure that Her Majesty’s Government will continue to call for full implementation of the peace process?

Repeated incidents of state violence call into question Colombia’s commitment to human rights and the rule of law, on which the UK-Andean trade deal is based. The Colombian unions and the TUC have called for the suspension of the deal to put pressure on the Colombian Government to address the violation of human rights and to implement in full the 2016 peace agreement so that post-Covid peace in Colombia can be a real prospect.

Lord Ray Collins (Labour)

(…) Latin America has been especially hard-hit by Covid-19. It has 8% of the world’s population but over 16% of global cases in the top six countries alone and, except for Chile, the highest number of deaths. Reasons include poor health infrastructure, the inability of workers in the informal economy to self-isolate and the lack of decisive, co-ordinated government action.

The ILO estimated that, by the end of 2020, employment across the region had fallen from 57% to 52%. It also illustrated how women and young people had been adversely affected, describing the results as

“a time bomb that could affect social and political stability”.

Here I highlight the point made by my noble friend Lady Blower on the impact on the peace process, particularly in Colombia. Will the Minister tell us a bit more about how we are influencing the situation there, to ensure that the peace process is kept on track? (…)

Lord Zac Goldsmith, Minister of State for the Pacific and the International Environment

(…) Of course, we are appalled by the reports of human rights violations and the deaths of environmental defenders in Colombia and elsewhere.

Lord Ray Collins (Labour)

And trade unionists.

Lord Zac Goldsmith, Minister of State for the Pacific and the International Environment

And trade unionists, of course. While these are the result of criminality within that country—a legacy, perhaps, of some of the difficulties that are beginning to subside, but nevertheless have really wracked Colombia for some time—these are not the consequences of malignant action by government. I raised this issue when I spoke to President Duque a week or so ago and it was very clear to me that he and his Government are doing what they can to get to grips with the issues that the noble Baroness raised so well. Although it is not entirely clear how we can help, certainly the offer from the UK is on the table to provide what support we can to enable the Government to get to grips with the problem, which is clearly tragic on so many levels. My colleagues and I raise these issues on a regular basis, but I believe that by supporting some of the initiatives that I hinted at earlier, albeit briefly, we have an opportunity in the UK to provide very meaningful support to the Government of Colombia in strengthening and extending and making that peace process endure.

Lord Ray Collins (Labour), 13 September 2021

My Lords, a lot of promises were made on human rights during the passage of the then Trade Bill, committing the FCDO and the DIT to work together. From the evidence we have seen so far, that is not happening. Labour’s policy report, Putting Workers First, which was published at this week’s TUC, shows that the FCDO’s concerns over workers’ rights in Colombia were not taken into account during trade negotiations. When will we see the Government keep their word? What steps will the FCDO take to ensure that future trade agreements contain human rights protections?

Lord Stephen Parkinson, Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport

My Lords, as I said in my initial Answer, we will not pursue trade to the exclusion of human rights. We regard both as an important part of deep, mature and wide-ranging relationships with all our trade partners, including those in human rights priority countries. In line with our international obligations, the Government will continue to ensure a high level of protection for labour standards in new trade agreements as well.

Jon Trickett MP (Labour), 26 July 2021

To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department, whether the National Crime Agency has provided any training to the Mobile Anti-Disturbances Squadron / Escuadrón Móvil Antidisturbios (ESMAD) unit of the Colombian National Police.

Kit Malthouse MP, Minister of State in the Home Office

The NCA works with law enforcement counterparts around the world, including in various South American countries. In Colombia, the NCA works with a number of Colombian departments including the Colombian National Police and the Office of the Attorney General of Colombia. This activity is focused on reducing the threat to the UK from the cocaine trade in Colombia and the region, as well as disrupting the money laundering and other criminal economies linked to drugs trafficking and other organised crime. All of NCA’s activity overseas, including the provision of security and justice assistance to partners is conducted in accordance with International Human Rights Legislation and HMG policy.

Caroline Lucas MP (Green), 21 July 2021

To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Affairs, if he will make representations to his Colombian counterparts on reports that at least 44 environmental defenders, including 21 indigenous activists, were killed in Colombia from 20 July 2020 to 30 April 2021; and if he will make a statement.

Wendy Morton MP, Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for the European Neighbourhood & the Americas

UK ministers and senior officials regularly raise human rights issues, as well as specific cases of concern, with the Colombian Government, and in multilateral fora. The UK’s International Ambassador for Human Rights, Rita French, raised our concerns around killings of human rights defenders, including environmental activists and indigenous community leaders, on a virtual visit to Colombia in February.

Colombia is a UK ‘Human Rights Priority Country,’ and we consistently raise our concerns regarding violence against human rights defenders and social leaders at the UN Security Council, as we did at meetings in April, and on 13 July. We will continue to raise our concerns with the relevant state actors in Colombia.

Caroline Lucas MP (Green), 21 July 2021

To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Affairs, what steps his Department is taking to ensure that environmental defenders are protected under the terms of the UK-Colombia Partnership for Sustainable Growth.

Wendy Morton MP, Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for the European Neighbourhood & the Americas

The UK and Colombia signed the “Partnership for Sustainable Growth” in June 2019. The UK-Colombia Partnership for Sustainable Growth commits both countries to working more closely together to advance low carbon investments, and improve resilience against the worst effects of climate change. The Partnership is underpinned by International Climate Finance programmes, and other UK Official Development Assistance representing approximately £278 million of committed funding. The promotion of sustainable economic opportunities will help tackle some of the root causes of ongoing violence.

Through our Conflict, Stability, and Security Fund (CSSF) programme, which has provided £63 million in support of peace agreement implementation, security, and stability in Colombia since 2015, we continue to prioritise funding interventions to protect human rights defenders and social leaders.

Caroline Lucas MP (Green), 21 July 2021

To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Affairs, what assessment he has made of the implications for his policies of reports that at least 44 environmental defenders, including 21 indigenous activists, were killed in Colombia from 20 July 2020 to 30 April 2021.

Wendy Morton MP, Parliamentary Under-Secretary for the European Neighbourhood & the Americas

The UK Government remains concerned about the persistent level of violence towards human rights defenders and social leaders in Colombia. Through our Conflict, Stability, and Security Fund (CSSF) programme, which has provided £63 million in support of peace agreement implementation, security, and stability in Colombia since 2015, we will continue to prioritise funding interventions to protect human rights defenders, including environmental activists, and social leaders.

UK ministers and senior officials regularly raise human rights issues, as well as specific cases of concern, with the Colombian Government, and in multilateral fora. The UK’s Ambassador for Human Rights, Rita French, raised our concerns around the killings of human rights defenders, including environmental activists and indigenous community leaders, on a virtual visit to Colombia in February. Colombia is a UK ‘Human Rights Priority Country,’ and we will continue to raise our concerns with the relevant state actors in Colombia.

Clive Efford MP (Labour), 20 July 2021

To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Affairs what recent discussions he has had with the Colombian Government on the policing of protests and incidents of violence against protesters in that country?

Wendy Morton MP, Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for the European Neighbourhood & the Americas

We remain concerned about reports of human rights violations in relation to recent protests in Colombia, and we regularly raise our concerns with the relevant Toggle showing location of state actors. I spoke with the then Colombian acting Foreign Minister Adriana Mejía on 14 May to express my concerns and to welcome Colombia’s commitment to transparent investigations into allegations of excessive use of force by the police. I also spoke with the Colombian ambassador to the UK on 12 July to ask for an update on investigations. I was pleased to learn that more than 200 investigations into alleged misconduct by the police are now open.

Clive Efford MP

I am grateful for that answer, but the truth is that the UK Government are providing extensive training and support to Colombian police, despite evidence of extensive police brutality, with up to 43 people allegedly murdered, a catalogue of sexual assaults and people being blinded by having tear gas canisters fired in their face. Will the Minister commit to publishing full overseas security and justice assessments for activities under this programme, so that the House can satisfy itself that the Government are not contributing to further abuses of human rights in Colombia?

Wendy Morton MP

On police training, our conflict, stability and security fund’s Colombia peace and stabilisation programme launched the £2.1 million police innovations for stabilisation in Colombia project in 2021. The project is supporting the transformation of the Colombian national police, but we are not aware of any police units in Colombia that have received UK training support being involved in human rights violations. Colombia is a Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office human rights priority country. We take the growing levels of violence against social leaders and human rights defenders extremely seriously, and we consistently raise our concerns with the Colombian Government and in multilateral forums.

Ellie Reeves MP (Labour), 20 July 2021

To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Affairs What recent discussions he has had with Cabinet colleagues on inserting clauses on human rights in future trade deals?

James Cleverly MP, Minister of State for Middle East, North Africa and North America

FCDO Ministers are in regular contact with Cabinet colleagues on a range of trade-related issues and we are clear that more trade does not have to come at the expense of our commitment to human rights. The UK will continue to show global leadership in encouraging all states to uphold international human rights obligations and will hold to account those who violate human rights. Since the inception of the Global Human Rights Sanctions Regulations 2020, we have used those powers to impose sanctions on 78 persons involved in human rights violations. The UK has a strong history of protecting human rights and promoting global values. By having a strong economic relationship with partners, we can have more open discussions on a range of issues, including human rights. We continue to take a balanced and proportionate approach with partners to deliver the best outcome for the UK and to maximise the benefits of trade, while ensuring that we promote our core values.

Ellie Reeves MP

The UK has a free trade agreement with Colombia that contains a human rights clause, but we have just heard that in recent months protesters in Colombia have faced brutal violence at the hands of Colombian police, with human rights organisations documenting 43 protesters potentially killed by the police. Given those abuses, and the Colombian Government’s repeated attempts to deny and minimise the crisis, will the UK Government signal their commitment to human rights and, rather than turn a blind eye, ensure that this human rights clause is actually upheld?

James Cleverly MP

Colombia is an FCDO human rights priority country, and we take the growing reports of violence against social leaders and human rights defenders extremely seriously. We consistently raise our concerns with the Colombian Government and in multilateral forums. The point that the Under-Secretary of State for Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Affairs, my hon. Friend the Member for Aldridge-Brownhills (Wendy Morton), has just made is still very much the case. When we export our products and services, we also export our values and buy the right to have serious conversations with partners around the world.

Jamie Stone MP (Liberal Democrat), 8 July 2021

To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Affairs, what plans he has made to work with his international counterparts to promote civil liberties and encourage the right to protest in Colombia.

Wendy Morton MP, Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for the European Neighbourhood & the Americas

UK Ministers and senior officials regularly raise human rights issues, as well as specific cases of concern, with the Colombian Government, and in multilateral fora. We are clear that we support the right of all Colombians to protest peacefully, and that the right to peaceful assembly and association must be guaranteed. We will continue to work closely with the UN Verification Mission and the UN Office of the High Representative for Human Rights in Colombia, as well as the wider international community, in support of their efforts to reduce tensions and promote dialogue.

Jamie Stone MP (Liberal Democrat), 8 July 2021

To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Affairs, what discussions he has had with the Home Secretary on the Government’s involvement in training Colombian police forces; and if he will publish the minutes of those discussions.

Wendy Morton MP, Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for the European Neighbourhood & the Americas

We are not aware of such a meeting. The UK is committed to continuing its programming in support of peace, stability and security in Colombia to help implement the peace agreement and build a more peaceful and prosperous society.

The UK’s CSSF-funded Colombia Peace and Stabilisation Programme launched the multiyear £2.1 million Police Innovations for Stabilisation in Colombia (SCIP) project in 2020. It is supporting the transformation of the Colombian National Police. The intervention aims to contribute to the modernisation of the police service by scaling up and improving police practices with a preventive approach, focusing on i) community-based police prevention; ii) transformation of large-scale social conflicts from a rights-based approach; and iii) gender mainstreaming. The project is being implemented through the International Organisation of Migration, which will design and deliver activities alongside the Colombian National Police at national and field level, with strategic support and advice from Police Scotland.

Fabian Hamilton MP (Labour), 07 July 2021

To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Affairs, what assessment he has made of the effect of the change in the level of Official Development Assistance to date; and if he will make an assessment of the effect of that change on the UK’s bilateral relationship with Colombia.

Wendy Morton MP, Parliamentary Under-Secretary in the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office

Allocation decisions have been taken by Ministers in line with the objectives set out in the Integrated Review. These took account of a full range of factors, including analysis of potential impacts on beneficiaries of UK aid. We remain a world-leading aid donor, and across HMG, will spend more than £10 billion this year to fight poverty, tackle climate change, and improve global health.

Colombia is a key partner to the UK in Latin America, and the two countries will continue to work closely together. We have contributed more than £63 million in support via the UK’s Conflict, Security, and Stability Fund, and are the largest donor to the UN Trust Fund for Colombia, supporting implementation of the peace accords. We are proud to lead on the issue at the UN Security Council, and will continue to strengthen the international community’s support and commitment to peace, stability, and justice in Colombia.

Feryal Clark MP (Labour), 21 June 2021

To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Affairs, what assessment he has made of the accuracy of reports of armed civilians opening fire on demonstrators in the presence of police officers during recent protests in Colombia.

Wendy Morton MP, Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for the European Neighbourhood & the Americas

The British Government is concerned about reports of armed civilians opening fire on demonstrators in the presence of police officers. We are clear that we support the right of all Colombians to protest peacefully, and that the right to peaceful assembly and association must be guaranteed. Colombia is a UK ‘Human Rights Priority Country,’ and we have raised our concerns with the relevant state actors in Colombia since protests began. Most recently, I spoke with acting Foreign Minister Adriana Mejía on 14 May to express our concerns, and welcome Colombia’s commitment to transparent investigations into all allegations. I made it clear that the security services must be held accountable for their actions, with all complaints thoroughly investigated.

We will continue to work closely with the UN Verification Mission, and the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights in Colombia, as well as the wider international community, in support of their efforts to reduce tensions, promote dialogue, and ensure accountability.

Apsana Begum MP (Labour), 17 June 2021

To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Affairs, what representations he has made to his Colombian counterpart on the reported ongoing killings of former FARC combatants who have laid down their weapons under the peace process.

Wendy Morton MP, Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for the European Neighbourhood & the Americas

The British Government regularly raises concerns with our Colombian counterparts regarding the persistent high levels of violence, and threats towards former FARC combatants. Most recently, we raised the issue on 21 April at the UN Security Council meeting, at which the UN Secretary General’s Special Representative presented his quarterly report on Colombia’s peace process.

We will continue to support the Colombian Government’s commitment to assisting former combatants in transitioning to civilian life, as agreed as part of the 2016 peace agreement. We have committed more than £63million over 5 years through our Conflict, Stability, and Security Fund to support reintegration, rural development, and security across conflict-affected regions. We have done this through programmes designed to build state capacity to ensure the safety of former combatants, and of other vulnerable individuals and groups, including outside of official reincorporation zones.

Apsana Begum MP (Labour), 17 June 2021

To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Affairs, what assessment he has made of the implications for his policies of reports of ocular injuries as a result of the actions of the Colombian police during protests in that country between 28 April and 31 May 2021.

Wendy Morton MP, Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for the European Neighbourhood & the Americas

UK ministers and senior officials regularly raise human rights issues, as well as specific cases of concern, with the Colombian Government, and in multilateral fora. We are clear that we support the right of all Colombians to protest peacefully, and that the right to peaceful assembly and association must be guaranteed.

Colombia is a UK ‘Human Rights Priority Country,’ and we have raised our concerns with the relevant state actors in Colombia since protests began. Most recently, I spoke with acting Foreign Minister Adriana Mejía on 14 May to express my concerns, and welcome Colombia’s commitment to transparent investigations into allegations of abuse. We look to the Colombian authorities to investigate fully any reports on excessive use of force against protestors, and take appropriate action against those responsible. Security services must be held accountable for their actions, and any complaints thoroughly investigated

Feryal Clark MP (Labour), 02 June 2021

To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Affairs, what representations he has made to his Colombian counterpart in respect of human rights abuses reported to have been committed by Colombian police during protests in April and May 2021.

Wendy Morton MP, Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for the European Neighbourhood & the Americas

The UK Government remains concerned about reports of human rights violations in Colombia, and we have raised our concerns with the relevant state actors in Colombia since the recent protests began. We are clear that we support the right of all Colombians to protest peacefully, and that the right to peaceful assembly and association must be guaranteed.

Most recently, I spoke with then acting Foreign Minister Adriana Mejía on 14 May to express my concerns, and welcome Colombia’s commitment to transparent investigations into allegations of excessive use of force. Security services must be held accountable for their actions, with all complaints being thoroughly investigated.

Rupa Huq MP (Labour), 27 May 2021

To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Affairs, what recent assessment he has made of the human rights situation in Colombia; and what relevant recent discussions he has had with his Colombian counterpart on that matter.

Wendy Morton MP, Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for the European Neighbourhood & the Americas

The UK Government remains concerned about reports of human rights violations in Colombia, and we have raised our concerns with the relevant state actors in Colombia since the recent protests began. We are clear that we support the right of all Colombians to protest peacefully, and that the right to peaceful assembly and association must be guaranteed.

Most recently, I spoke with then acting Foreign Minister Adriana Mejía on 14 May to express my concerns, and welcome Colombia’s commitment to transparent investigations into allegations of excessive use of force. Security services must be held accountable for their actions, with all complaints thoroughly investigated.

Tony Lloyd MP (Labour), 27 May 2021

To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Affairs, if he will make a statement in response to the reported human rights abuses committed by the national police during protests in Colombia in April and May 2021.

Wendy Morton MP, Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for the European Neighbourhood & the Americas

The UK supports the right of all Colombians to protest peacefully, and the right to peaceful assembly and association must be guaranteed. I reiterated this message via social media on 6 May, which followed up on similar public messaging from our Embassy in Bogotá on 4, 5, and 7 May.

Colombia is a UK ‘Human Rights Priority Country,’ and we have raised our concerns with the relevant state actors in Colombia since protests began. Most recently, I spoke with acting Foreign Minister Adriana Mejía on 14 May to express my concerns, and welcome Colombia’s commitment to transparent investigations into allegations of abuse.

Navendu Mishra MP (Labour), 26 May 2021

To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Affairs, what diplomatic steps the Government is taking to ensure that (a) the right to protest and (b) freedom of association is respected in Colombia.

Wendy Morton MP, Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for the European Neighbourhood & the Americas

We are clear that we support the right of all Colombians to protest peacefully, and that the right to peaceful assembly and association must be guaranteed. Colombia is a UK ‘Human Rights Priority Country,’ and we have raised our concerns with the relevant state actors in Colombia since protests began. Most recently, I spoke with acting Foreign Minister Adriana Mejía on 14 May to express our concerns, and welcome Colombia’s commitment to transparent investigations into allegations of abuse.

We look to the Colombian authorities to investigate fully any excessive use of force, and take appropriate action against those responsible. Security services must be held accountable for their actions, with all complaints thoroughly investigated. We will continue to work closely with the UN Verification Mission, and the UN Office of the High Representative for Human Rights in Colombia, as well as the wider international community, in support of their efforts to reduce tensions and promote dialogue.

Ian Lavery MP (Labour), 26 May 2021

To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Affairs, what assessment he has made of the implications for his policies of reports by human rights organisations in Colombia of arbitrary arrests during national strike protests which started in that country on 28 April 2021.

Wendy Morton MP, Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for the European Neighbourhood & the Americas

The UK Government remains concerned about reports of human rights violations in Colombia. The fundamental human right to peaceful assembly and association must be guaranteed. Colombia is a UK ‘Human Rights Priority Country,’ and we have raised our concerns with the relevant state actors in Colombia since protests began. Most recently, I spoke with acting Foreign Minister Adriana Mejía on 14 May to express our concerns, and welcome Colombia’s commitment to transparent investigations into allegations of abuse.

We look to the Colombian authorities to investigate fully any excessive use of force, and take appropriate action against those responsible. Security services must be held accountable for their actions, with all complaints thoroughly investigated. We will continue to work closely with the UN Verification Mission, and the UN Office of the High Representative for Human Rights in Colombia, as well as the wider international community, in support of their efforts to reduce tensions and promote dialogue.

Fabian Hamilton MP (Labour), 25 May 2021

To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Affairs, what steps are being taken to ensure Colombian police units receiving UK police training are not involved in human rights abuses.

To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Affairs, what Colombian police units are receiving training from UK personnel; and what assessment he has made of whether (a) those units or (b) personnel have been involved in alleged human rights abuses during recent protests in that country.

Wendy Morton MP, Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for the European Neighbourhood & the Americas

We are clear that we support the right of all Colombians to protest peacefully. We look to the Colombian authorities to investigate fully the excessive use of force against protesters, and take appropriate action against those responsible. Security services must be held accountable for their actions, with all complaints thoroughly investigated. The UK is a key supporter of the implementation of Colombia’s historic peace agreement. Over the past five years, the UK has provided £63 million through the Conflict, Security, and Stability Fund (CSSF), which has allowed us to provide niche technical and financial support on stabilisation, peacebuilding, and transitional justice.

Our Embassy regularly reviews Overseas Security and Justice Assessments, ensuring steps are taken to mitigate any risk human rights abuses, and strengthen the impact of our interventions on improving respect for human rights. HMG work on security and justice overseas is based on British values, including human rights and democracy.

Lloyd Russell-Moyle (Labour), 25 May 2021

To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Affairs, what assessment he has made of the implications for his policies of reports from the United Nations Human Rights Office of excessive force being used by the Colombian National Police against protesters.

Wendy Morton MP, Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for the European Neighbourhood & the Americas

The UK Government remains concerned about reports of human rights violations in Colombia. The fundamental human right to peaceful assembly and association must be guaranteed. Colombia is a UK ‘Human Rights Priority Country’ and we have raised our concerns with the relevant state actors in Colombia since protests began. Most recently, I spoke with acting Foreign Minister Adriana Mejía on 14 May to express our concerns, and welcome Colombia’s commitment to transparent investigations into allegations of abuse.

We look to the Colombian authorities to investigate fully any excessive use of force, and take appropriate action against those responsible. Security services must be held accountable for their actions, with all complaints thoroughly investigated. We will continue to work closely with the UN Verification Mission, and the UN Office of the High Representative for Human Rights in Colombia, as well as the wider international community, in support of their efforts to reduce tensions, and promote dialogue.

Chris Stephens (SNP), 25 May 2021

To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Affairs, what assessment he has made of the implications for his policies of reported multiple human rights abuses committed by the Colombian police during recent protests in that country.

Wendy Morton MP, Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for the European Neighbourhood & the Americas

The UK Government remains concerned about reports of human rights violations in Colombia. The fundamental human right to peaceful assembly and association must be guaranteed. Colombia is a UK ‘Human Rights Priority Country,’ and we have raised our concerns with the relevant state actors in Colombia since protests began. Most recently, I spoke with acting Foreign Minister Adriana Mejía on 14 May to express our concerns, and welcome Colombia’s commitment to transparent investigations into allegations of abuse.

We look to the Colombian authorities to investigate fully any excessive use of force, and take appropriate action against those responsible. Security services must be held accountable for their actions, with all complaints thoroughly investigated. We will continue to work closely with the UN Verification Mission, and the UN Office of the High Representative for Human Rights in Colombia, as well as the wider international community, in support of their efforts to reduce tensions, and promote dialogue.

Kate Osborne (Labour), 25 May 2021

To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Affairs, if he will make representations to his Colombian counterpart on reports of eye injuries resulting from the actions of Colombian police during protests.

Wendy Morton MP, Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for the European Neighbourhood & the Americas

UK ministers and senior officials regularly raise human rights issues, as well as specific cases of concern with the Colombian Government, and in multilateral fora. We are clear that we support the right of all Colombians to protest peacefully, and that the right to peaceful assembly and association must be guaranteed.

Colombia is a UK ‘Human Rights Priority Country,’ and we have raised our concerns with the relevant state actors in Colombia since protests began. Most recently, I spoke with acting Foreign Minister Adriana Mejía on 14 May to express my concerns, and welcome Colombia’s commitment to transparent investigations into allegations of abuse. We look to the Colombian authorities to investigate fully any reports on excessive use of force against protestors, and take appropriate action against those responsible. Security services must be held accountable for their actions, and any complaints thoroughly investigated.

Lloyd Russell-Moyle (Labour), 25 May 2021

To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Affairs, whether he has plans to review arms export licences issued for Colombia in response to the reported human rights abuses committed by Colombian police during protests in April and May 2021.

Wendy Morton MP, Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for the European Neighbourhood & the Americas

HM Government takes its export control responsibilities very seriously and operates one of the most robust arms export control regimes in the world. We consider all our export applications thoroughly against a strict risk assessment framework and keep all licences under careful and continual review as standard. HM Government will not grant an export licence if to do so would be inconsistent with the Consolidated EU and National Arms Export Licensing Criteria.

Angus MacNeil (SNP), 25 May 2021

To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Affairs, what representations he has made to his Colombian counterparts on ensuring the full investigation into the numerous reports of eye injuries caused by projectiles fired by police during recent protests in that country.

Wendy Morton MP, Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for the European Neighbourhood & the Americas

UK ministers and senior officials regularly raise human rights issues, as well as specific cases of concern, with the Colombian Government, and in multilateral fora. We are clear that we support the right of all Colombians to protest peacefully, and that the right to peaceful assembly and association must be guaranteed.

Colombia is a UK ‘Human Rights Priority Country,’ and we have raised our concerns with the relevant state actors in Colombia since protests began. Most recently, I spoke with acting Foreign Minister Adriana Mejía on 14 May to express my concerns, and welcome Colombia’s commitment to transparent investigations into allegations of abuse. We look to the Colombian authorities to investigate fully any reports on excessive use of force against protestors, and take appropriate action against those responsible. Security services must be held accountable for their actions, and any complaints thoroughly investigated.

Patricia Gibson MP (SNP), 17 May 2021

To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Affairs, what diplomatic steps the Government plans to take in response to reports that human rights violations against the people of Colombia are increasing.

To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Affairs, what steps the Government plans to take in response to the reports of unrest and human rights abuses in Colombia.

Wendy Morton MP, Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for the European Neighbourhood & the Americas

The UK Government remains concerned about reports of human rights violations in Colombia. We have raised our concerns with the relevant state actors over the past two weeks, and will continue to do so. Most recently, I spoke with acting Foreign Minister Adriana Mejía on 14 May to welcome Colombia’s commitment to transparent investigations into allegations of abuse. We will continue to work closely with the UN Office of the High Representative for Human Rights in Colombia, and the wider international community to reduce tensions.

Colombia is a UK Government ‘Human Rights Priority Country,’ and we look to the Colombian authorities to investigate fully any excessive use of force, and take appropriate action against those responsible. The fundamental human right to peaceful assembly and association must be guaranteed.

Fabian Hamilton MP (Labour), 29 April 2021

To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Affairs, when the Government plans to publish the programme summary for the Police Innovations for Stabilisation in Colombia Programme.

Wendy Morton MP, Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for the European Neighbourhood & the Americas

The £2.1 million Police Innovations for Stabilisation in Colombia multi-year project was launched in 2020 and is supporting the transformation of the Colombian National Police. The intervention aims to contribute to the modernization of the police service by scaling up and improving police practices with a preventive approach, focusing on i) Community-based police prevention; ii) Transformation of large-scale social conflicts from a rights-based approach; and iii) Gender mainstreaming. This work is part of the CSSF Colombia Peace and Stabilisation Programme.

The CSSF programme summaries for 20/21 will be published by Cabinet Office before Parliament rises for summer.

Navendu Mishra MP (Labour), 29 April 2021

To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Affairs, what assessment he has made of the implications for his policies of reports that several children were killed in a military bombing raid against illegal armed groups in Guaviare, southern Colombia on 2 March 2021.

Wendy Morton MP, Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for the European Neighbourhood & the Americas

The UK remains extremely concerned by the continued recruitment of minors by illegal armed groups in Colombia. We most recently raised this issue on 21 April at the UN Security Council meeting, at which the UN Secretary General’s Special Representative presented his quarterly report on Colombia’s peace process. We urged all armed groups to immediately release all minors from their ranks, also expressing our concerns about the tragic deaths of minors during Government operations against armed groups in Guaviare last month, and welcomed the Government’s investigation into these deaths.

The UK is an active permanent member of the United Nations Security Council Working Group on Children and Armed Conflict (CAAC), which leads the international response to violations committed against children in conflict. We regularly raise concerns with the Colombian Government, and at the UN, and will continue to do so.

Chris Stephens MP (SNP), 29 April 2021

To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Affairs, what assessment he has made of the adequacy of the Colombian Government’s investigation into alleged human rights abuses by the police during protests in that country on 9 and 10 September 2020.

Wendy Morton MP, Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for the European Neighbourhood & the Americas

We are clear that we support the right of all Colombians to protest peacefully. We look to the Colombian authorities to investigate fully the excessive use of force against protesters, and take appropriate action against those responsible. Security services must be held accountable for their actions, with all complaints thoroughly investigated.

UK Ministers and officials regularly raise human rights issues with their Colombian counterparts, and we will continue to do so. Most recently, the UK’s Ambassador for Human Rights, Rita French, raised our concerns around media freedom, sexual violence, and the killing of human rights defenders during her virtual visit to Colombia in February.

Ian Lavery MP (Labour), 27 April 2021

To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Affairs, what assessment he has been made of the implications for his policies of calls by the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights in Colombia for urgent action in response to high levels of violence and insecurity in the Colombian region of Buenaventura.

To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Affairs, if he will make representations to his Colombian counterpart on urgently implementing agreements signed by the Colombian Government with communities in Buenaventura as recommended by the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights on 19 March 2021.

Wendy Morton MP, Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for the European Neighbourhood & the Americas

The UK Government remains concerned about reports of violence and insecurity in Colombia, including in Buenaventura. Embassy teams have visited Buenaventura twice this year to meet with key local stakeholders to discuss peace and security challenges. In April, the Embassy attended and supported the launch of the Buenaventura Search Pact, signed by the Unit for the Search for Disappeared People, the Special Jurisdiction for Peace, the Truth Commission, and the representative of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights. The Pact is an initiative to support families of people that have disappeared and put in place measures to address forced disappearances, structural violence and insecurity in Buenaventura.

This support is part of the UK’s efforts to help implement the 2016 Peace Accords and improve security, human rights, and justice in Colombia. In addition, UK ministers and senior officials regularly raise human rights issues with their Colombian counterparts. Most recently, the UK’s Ambassador for Human Rights, Rita French, raised our concerns around levels of violence, on a virtual visit to Colombia in February. We will continue to raise our concerns with the relevant state actors in Colombia.

Ruth Jones MP (Labour), 21 April 2021

To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Affairs, what discussions he has had with his Colombian counterpart on the recent killing of trade unionists in that country.

Wendy Morton MP, Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for the European Neighbourhood & the Americas

UK ministers and senior officials regularly raise human rights issues with their Colombian counterparts. Most recently, the UK’s Ambassador for Human Rights, Rita French, raised our concerns around killings of human rights defenders, media freedom, and sexual violence, on a virtual visit to Colombia in February.

We continue to support efforts to improve the security and protection of human rights defenders, including through the UK’s Conflict, Stability and Security Fund.

Fabian Hamilton MP (Labour), 12 April 2021

To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Affairs, what assessment he has made of reports of threats of violence made against human rights defenders and environmental organisations in Barrancabermeja and Magdalena Medio, Colombia.

Wendy Morton MP, Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for the European Neighbourhood & the Americas

The UK Government remains concerned about the persistent level of violence towards human rights defenders, and environmental activists in Colombia. Colombia is a UK Government ‘Human Rights Priority Country’ – UK ministers and senior officials regularly raise human rights issues, as well as specific cases of concern, with the Colombian Government, and in multilateral fora. Most recently, the UK’s Ambassador for Human Rights, Rita French, raised our concerns around killings of human rights defenders, as well as media freedom and sexual violence, on a virtual visit to Colombia in February. We will continue to raise our concerns with the relevant state actors in Colombia.

Through our CSSF programme, which has provided £63 million in support of peace agreement implementation, security and stability in Colombia since 2015, we continue to prioritise funding interventions to protect human rights defenders, social leaders, and ex-combatants. In Barrancabermeja and Magdalena Medio specifically, we are supporting the work of the Transitional Justice System and the Organisation of American States’ Peace Process Support Mission. We are also funding civil society participation in the implementation of the peace agreement, and the development and implementation of rural development plans in conflict-affected territories.

Fabian Hamilton MP (Labour), 12 April 2021

To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Affairs, what steps he is taking to encourage the Colombian Government to tackle reported violence against trade unionists in that country.

Wendy Morton MP, Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for the European Neighbourhood & the Americas

UK Ministers and senior officials regularly raise human rights issues with their Colombian counterparts. Most recently, the UK’s Ambassador for Human Rights, Rita French, raised our concerns around killings of human rights defenders, media freedom, and sexual violence, on a virtual visit to Colombia in February.

We continue to support efforts to improve the security and protection of human rights defenders, including through the UK’s Conflict, Stability and Security Fund.

Ellie Reeves MP (Labour), 12 April 2021

To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what assessment he has made of the recent information released by Colombia’s Special Jurisdiction for Peace that the country’s security forces intentionally killed at least 6,402 civilians between 2002 and 2008.

Wendy Morton MP, Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for the European Neighbourhood & the Americas

The ongoing work by the Special Jurisdiction for Peace is vital for the transitional justice process agreed as part of the peace agreement. We have been clear that all actors being investigated, including the security services, must be held accountable for their actions, and any crimes thoroughly investigated. The UK has been a leading international advocate of Colombia’s peace process, including mechanisms like the Special Jurisdiction for Peace, and supporting the Colombian government in its commitment to implement the 2016 Peace Accords will remain our top priority.

We have contributed more than £60 million in support via the UK’s Conflict, Security, and Stability Fund and are the largest donor to the UN Trust Fund for Colombia. We are proud to lead on the issue at the UN Security Council, and will continue to strengthen the international community’s support and commitment to peace, stability, and justice in Colombia.

Kate Osborne MP (Labour), 12 April 2021

To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs if he will make representations to his Colombian counterparts about the high number of ocular injuries reportedly caused by the Colombian ESMAD police unit during demonstrations in that country.

Wendy Morton MP, Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for the European Neighbourhood & the Americas

UK Ministers and officials regularly raise human rights issues with their Colombian counterparts. Most recently, the UK’s Ambassador for Human Rights, Rita French, raised our concerns around the killing of human rights defenders, media freedom, and sexual violence during a virtual visit to Colombia in February.

We are aware of the concerning reports on protestors being injured as a result of the police response to protests in Colombia. We are clear that we support the right of all Colombians to protest peacefully. We look to the Colombian authorities to investigate fully any reports on excessive use of force against protestors, and take appropriate action against those responsible. Security services must be held accountable for their actions, and any complaints thoroughly investigated.

Fleur Anderson MP (Labour), 12 April 2021

To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what discussions he has had with Colombian counterparts about reports of Colombian police using live ammunition against protesters in Bogota on 9th and 10th September 2020.

Wendy Morton MP, Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for the European Neighbourhood & the Americas

We are aware of concerning reports regarding the police response to protests in Colombia in September 2020. We are clear that we support the right of all Colombians to protest peacefully, and we look to the Colombian authorities to investigate fully any reports of excessive use of force against protestors, and take appropriate action against those responsible. Security services must be held accountable for their actions, and any complaints thoroughly investigated.

Fabian Hamilton MP (Labour), 18 March 2021

To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Affairs, what (a) financial and (b) technical support the UK provides to the Colombian (i) police and (ii) armed forces.

Wendy Morton MP, Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for the European Neighbourhood & the Americas

The UK is a key supporter of the implementation of Colombia’s historic peace agreement. Over the past five years, the UK has provided £61.7 million through the Conflict, Security, and Stabilisation Fund (CSSF), which has allowed us to provide niche technical and financial support on stabilisation, policing, and transitional justice. In 2020, the UK launched a three year £2.1 million Police Innovations for Stabilisation in Colombia Programme (SCIP), which is helping the transformation of the Colombian National Police. The SCIP aims to contribute to the modernization of the police service by scaling up and improving police practices with a preventive approach, focusing on i) Community-based police prevention; ii) Transformation of large-scale social conflicts from a rights-based approach; and iii) Gender mainstreaming.

Fewer than 10 UK armed forces personnel are deployed to Colombia in support of the Colombian police and armed forces, as well as in capacity building support to the Colombian Ministry of Defence, which has responsibility for both the Colombian Armed Forces and the police service.

Fabian Hamilton MP (Labour), 18 March 2021

To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Affairs, how many UK armed forces personnel are stationed in Colombia to assist with training the Colombian police force.

Wendy Morton MP, Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for the European Neighbourhood & the Americas

Fewer than ten members of the UK armed forces are deployed to Colombia to assist the Colombian police service.

Fabian Hamilton MP (Labour), 20 January 2021

To ask the Secretary of State for International Trade, what steps he is taking to ensure that UK arms sold to Colombia are not being used against the civilian population.

Ranil Jayawardena, Parliamentary Under-Secretary in the Department for International Trade

Arms exports require an export licence, and all export licence applications are assessed against the Consolidated EU and National Arms Export Licensing Criteria (the “Consolidated Criteria”).

The Consolidated Criteria take into account our obligations under the Arms Trade Treaty and other relevant rules of international law. They provide a thorough risk assessment framework and require us to think hard about the possible impact of providing equipment and its capabilities. These are not decisions we take lightly and HM Government will not grant an export licence if to do so would be inconsistent with the Consolidated Criteria, including if there is a clear risk, that the items might be used for internal repression.

In addition, HM Government is able to review licences – and suspend or revoke as necessary – when circumstances require, and this is done in line with the Consolidated Criteria.

Dan Carden MP (Labour), 19 January 2021

[To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Affairs] what steps he is taking to support the 2016 peace agreement in Colombia following the recent killings of human rights defenders and trade unionists in that country.

Wendy Morton MP, Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for the European Neighbourhood & the Americas

The UK remains concerned about the persistent level of violence towards human rights defenders in Colombia. We regularly raise this with the Colombian Government, and in multilateral fora.

I spoke to the Colombian Foreign Minister Blum on 2 June 2020, and reiterated UK support for the peace process, and concern about the killing of human rights defenders. Our Permanent Representative to the UN expressed our deep concern at the UN Security Council on 14 July 2020. Lord Ahmad discussed these issues with civil society, and government during a virtual visit to Colombia on 13 October 2020. The Colombian Government has taken measures to address violence, but there remain major challenges. We welcome the Colombian Government’s continuing commitment to the full implementation of the 2016 peace agreement with the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC).

The UK will continue to support Colombia. We have committed £60 million through the Conflict, Security, and Stability Fund (CSSF) in support of peace, stability, and security. We lead on this issue at the UN Security Council, and are the largest donor to the UN Trust Fund. Our embassy programmes work to help human rights defenders at risk, and tackle root causes of the violence.

Fabian Hamilton MP (Labour), 18 December 2020

To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Affairs, what steps he is taking to help ensure that the Colombian peace agreement is upheld.

Wendy Morton MP, Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for the European Neighbourhood & the Americas

The UK has been a leading international advocate of Colombia’s peace process, and supporting the Colombian Government in its commitment to implement the 2016 Peace Accords will remain an important priority. We have contributed more than £60 million in support via the Conflict, Security, and Stability Fund (CSSF) and are the largest donor to the UN Trust Fund for Colombia. CSSF resources are targeted at accelerating the implementation of the peace accord, including support for the Government’s rural development and reintegration programmes, and strengthening the participation of the communities in conflict-affected areas.

We are proud to lead on the issue at the UN Security Council, and will continue to strengthen the international community’s support and commitment to peace and stability in Colombia. Significant progress has been made on peace and security in Colombia in the past four years – whilst security challenges do remain, and will take time and resources to overcome, the situation has improved considerably.

Lloyd Russell-Moyle MP (Labour/Co-operative), 15 December 2020

To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Affairs, what police training arrangements there are between the UK and Colombian governments.

Wendy Morton MP, Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for the European Neighbourhood & the Americas

Through the Conflict, Security, and Stabilisation Fund (CSSF), the UK provides assistance to the Colombian police to improve its work with communities, its approach to gender-based violence, and wider respect for human rights. The FCDO is currently supporting projects helping with the transformation of the Colombian National Police in the wake of the peace accords, including work with the police to help build better police-community relationships, and improve their capacity to work on conflict prevention and mitigation.

Lloyd Russell-Moyle MP (Labour/Co-operative), 15 December 2020

To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Affairs, what funding the Government has made available to support the implementation of the six chapters of the Colombian peace agreement signed in 2016.

Wendy Morton MP, Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for the European Neighbourhood & the Americas

The UK has provided significant funding to support the implementation of the historic Peace Accords signed between the Government of Colombia and the Fuerzas Armadas Revolucionarias de Colombia (FARC). Since 2015, we have committed over £60 million through the Conflict, Security, and Stabilisation Fund (CSSF) to support the implementation of the peace agreement.

The UK is the largest single donor to the UN Trust Fund for Colombia. UK funding has included, but is not limited to, support for the Colombian institutions tasked with implementing and overseeing the different chapters of the peace agreement; supporting reintegration, rural development, and assistance to victims; the transitional justice mechanisms, including the work of the truth commission to gather testimony from Colombians in the UK; and a number of Colombian NGOs working on peace and stability.

Lloyd Russell-Moyle MP (Labour/Co-operative), 15 December 2020

To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Affairs, what assessment he has made of the accuracy of reports of Colombian police opening fire against unarmed protestors during protests in Bogota on 10 September 2020.

Wendy Morton MP, Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for the European Neighbourhood & the Americas

We are aware of the concerning reports of some police firing at crowds outside police stations in Bogotá during September’s protests. The UK has been clear that we support the right of all Colombians to protest peacefully. We look to the Colombian authorities to investigate fully the excessive use of force against protesters, and take appropriate action against those responsible. Security services must be held accountable for their actions, with all complaints being thoroughly investigated.

Dan Carden MP (Labour), 14 October 2020

To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Affairs, if he will make representations to his Colombian counterpart on the reported killing of 18-year-old activist Jayder Quintana in Cauca, southwest Colombia.

Wendy Morton MP, Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for the European Neighbourhood & the Americas

As we emphasised in the UN Security Council session on 14 July following the Special Representative’s report, and will raise again in the Security Council on 14 October, the UK continues to be very concerned about the persistent level of violence towards human rights defenders, social leaders, former FARC-EP combatants, and others. We regularly raise these issues with the Colombian Government and in multilateral fora, and will continue to do so, including during Lord Ahmad’s human rights-focused virtual visit to Colombia this week.

We have urged the Colombian Government to prioritise the tackling of this violence, and continue to work to improve security conditions around the country. The UK is also committed to continuing its own programming to support the government’s efforts, and mitigate risks to communities.

Tony Lloyd MP (Labour), 13 October 2020

What the Government’s policy is on promoting human rights, democracy building and the rule of law internationally, following the merger of his Department and the Department for International Development.

Nigel Adams, Minister of State in the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office

The UK is committed to the promotion and protection of human rights, democracy and the rule of law acting as a force for good in the world. The UK is one of the longest standing members of the Human Rights Council, and we are aiming to maintain that record at today’s election. Another good example is our recent activity at the UN on China, which shows our commitment to defending human rights in Xinjiang.

Tony Lloyd MP (Labour)

I welcome the Minister’s words, but may I refer him and his words to the situation in Colombia where, since the signing of the peace deal in 2016, we have seen hundreds of human rights defenders, civic leaders, trade unionists and former FARC—Fuerzas Armadas Revolucionarias de Colombia—members murdered, and where the fragile democratic process saw the FARC move from the armed struggle to the political process. Will the Minister commit to making Colombia a priority for this Government and will he or one of his colleagues commit to meeting a small delegation of MPs who are concerned about Colombia?

Nigel Adams, Minister of State in the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office

I thank the hon. Gentleman for his question. He is absolutely right to raise this matter. We believe that democracy, human rights and the rule of law are the absolute foundations on which open, stable and prosperous societies thrive. I am more than happy to commit on behalf of the Under-Secretary of State for Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Affairs, my hon. Friend Wendy Morton, to meet the hon. Gentleman to discuss this issue.

Jim Shannon MP (DUP), 12 October 2020

To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Affairs, what recent assessment he has made of the situation for human rights defenders in Colombia.

Wendy Morton MP, Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for the European Neighbourhood & the Americas

The UK Government remains concerned about the persistent level of violence towards human rights defenders in Colombia, and we have noted indications that this may have worsened during the COVID-19 lockdown.

We regularly raise this issue, as well as specific cases of concern with the Colombian Government, and in multilateral fora. We have also called on the Colombian Government to prioritise tackling and preventing this violence. Most recently, our Permanent Representative to the UN expressed our deep concern at the UN Security Council on 14 July, and we will use our position as penholder to raise the issue with the international community at next week’s Security Council meeting.

I emphasised that the UK views this issue as one of utmost importance during a phone call with Colombian Foreign Minister Claudia Blum on 2 June. Lord Ahmad, the Minister responsible for human rights, will reiterate these concerns when he makes a virtual visit to Colombia next week.

Colombia is a UK Government ‘Human Rights Priority Country,’ and as such, our Embassy in Bogota has provided significant programming to help those at risk, including support to the Attorney General’s office to strengthen their capacity in investigating threats against, and murders of human rights defenders.

We will continue to raise our concerns with the relevant state actors in Colombia.

Chris Matheson MP (Labour), 8 September 2020

To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Affairs what recent discussions he has had with his Colombian counterpart on increased incidents of violent conflict in that country.

Wendy Morton MP, Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for the European Neighbourhood & the Americas

Colombia has made significant progress since the 2016 peace agreement was signed with the FARC. For Colombians in most parts of the country where security was an issue, conditions are much improved. Significant challenges remain in some areas, due to illegal armed groups competing for territory and control of the drugs trade and other illicit activities. This has led to violence, and the death and displacement of ordinary Colombians. We regularly raise this violence with Colombian counterparts and in multilateral bodies. I discussed the UK’s concerns in a phone call with Claudia Blum, Colombian Foreign Minister, on 2 June. We also use our position as UNSC penholder on Colombia’s peace process to emphasise the issue and to urge the Colombian government to ensure the rule of law applies to the entire country, most recently at the UNSC session on 14 July. The UK is the biggest donor to the UN Trust Fund for Colombia. Since 2015 we have contributed over £53m to support implementation of the peace agreement. Programmes run by our Embassy in Bogotá aim to tackle the root causes of this violence, by helping communities develop sustainable livelihoods. This issue is a priority for the Colombian government. We will continue to support their efforts to bring long-term security to all communities.

Fabian Hamilton MP (Labour), 8 September 2020

To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Affairs, what assessment he has made of the adequacy of commitments in the Colombian peace deal for the Colombian Government to work towards the dismantling of paramilitary successor groups.

To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Affairs, what assessment he has made of the accuracy of reports of ongoing actions of the paramilitary successor group Los Rastrojos in Colombia.

Wendy Morton MP, Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for the European Neighbourhood & the Americas

We remain concerned about the continued presence and activities of illegal armed groups in Colombia, and the impact that their involvement in, and competition for, control of illicit economies has on local people. We are aware of reports of the activities of one such group Los Rastrojos, which has led to the deaths and widespread displacement of civilians near the Colombia-Venezuela border. Our Embassy continues to monitor the situation.

We remain steadfast in our support of the Colombian authorities as they seek to ensure sustainable peace. We regularly raise our concern about the activities of illegal armed groups with the Colombian Government, and in multilateral fora. Most recently, our Permanent Representative to the UN spoke on this issue at the UN Security Council on 14 July, and we consistently press the Colombian Government to focus on extending the rule of law to all parts of the country. More widely, long-term security depends on socioeconomic development across Colombia as a whole. Embassy programmes are working to help communities develop alternative livelihoods, and tackle the root causes of insecurity in order to build towards a sustainable and inclusive peace.

Kate Osborne MP (Labour), 8 September 2020

To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Affairs, what assessment he has made of the accuracy of reports of the murder of community activist Ernesto Aguilar Barreras in the Catatumbo region of Colombia.

Wendy Morton MP, Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for the European Neighbourhood & the Americas

We are aware of the reports that the community activist Ernesto Aguilar Barreras was among the victims of an attack in Tibú in mid-July, consequent on competition between rival illegal armed groups for control of illicit economies and territory.

As we emphasised in the UN Security Council session on 14 July following the Special Representative’s report, the UK continues to be concerned about the persistent level of violence towards human rights defenders, community activists such as Ernesto Aguilar Barreras, former FARC-EP combatants and others. We regularly raise these issues with the Colombian Government and in multilateral fora.

We have urged the Colombian Government to prioritise the tackling of this violence and to continue to work to improve security conditions around the country. The UK is also committed to continuing its own programming to support the government’s efforts and mitigate risks to communities.

Kate Osborne MP (Labour), 3 September 2020

To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Affairs, what assessment he has made of the accuracy of reports of a massacre in Tibú in Colombia on 18 July 2020.

Wendy Morton MP, Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for the European Neighbourhood & the Americas

We are aware of reports of killings and subsequent displacement of civilians in the Norte de Santander border areas of Cúcuta and Tibú in mid-July, following competition between rival armed groups for control of illicit economies and territory. The UK remains most concerned about the continuing presence of such groups in Colombia, and the serious impact their crimes and other activities have on local people and environments, particularly during this challenging time.

President Duque’s Government has publicly committed to implementing the Peace Accords of 2016 in their entirety, and we remain steadfast in our support of the Colombian authorities as they seek to ensure sustainable peace. We are proud to be the penholder on the issue at the UN Security Council. Most recently, our Permanent Representative to the UN spoke on the continued presence of illegal armed groups in Colombia at the UN Security Council on 14 July.

We have committed almost £53 million over 5 years through the Conflict, Stability and Security Fund to support the implementation of the peace process in Colombia, including across conflict-affected regions such as Norte de Santander. Many of the humanitarian organisations supported by the United Kingdom are operating in the region and working to provide support to those displaced. We will continue to monitor the situation.

Fabian Hamilton MP (Labour), 8 June 2020

To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs, what assessment he has made of progress on the rural reform chapter of the peace agreement in Colombia.

Wendy Morton MP, Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for the European Neighbourhood & the Americas

President Duque’s Government has publicly committed to implementing the Peace Accords of 2016 in their entirety, and we remain steadfast in our support of the Colombian authorities as they seek to ensure sustainable peace in Colombia. We are proud to be the penholder on the issue at the United Nations Security Council, and have committed almost £53 million over 5 years through the United Kingdom Conflict Stability and Security Fund for Colombia to support development across conflict-affected regions. We regularly raise progress in implementation of the peace agreement with the Colombian authorities, including the need to prioritise rural reform, where progress is crucial to sustainable peace. UK-funded programmes across a range of areas are helping to improve the socio-economic conditions in rural areas, particularly through the implementation of the rural development programmes (PDETS) set out in the peace accords.

Fabian Hamilton MP (Labour), 8 June 2020

To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs, what discussions he has had with his Colombian counterparts on the security of former combatants living in newly created areas outside the official reincorporation zones.

Wendy Morton MP, Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for the European Neighbourhood & the Americas

The United Kingdom welcomes the Colombian Government’s longstanding commitment to assisting former guerrilla fighters transition to civilian life following the peace agreement of 2016. We have committed almost £53 million over 5 years through the United Kingdom Conflict Stability and Security Fund for Colombia to support development across conflict-affected regions. This includes programmes designed to build state capacity to ensure the safety of former fighters and of other vulnerable individuals and groups, including outside of official reincorporation zones.

Our Embassy regularly raises concerns about specific communities with the relevant state actors in Colombia.

We also raised our concern about this issue at the United Nations Security Council session on Colombia on 14 April, where we called on the Colombian Government to accelerate its reintegration programmes for former combatants. We will continue to work closely with the Colombian Government and civil society on the peace process and related matters.

Fabian Hamilton MP (Labour), 8 June 2020

To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs, what assessment he has made of the accuracy of reports of protestors being killed during protests against forced eradication programmes in Colombia.

Wendy Morton MP, Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for the European Neighbourhood & the Americas

The United Kingdom is committed to the implementation of the Peace Accords of 2016, and we remain steadfast in our support of the Colombian authorities as they seek to ensure sustainable peace in Colombia. Part of this includes direct support to the Government’s voluntary crop substitution programme and to supporting state capacity to better protect community leaders involved in this work. We are aware of reports of two deaths during coca eradication operations in recent months. As we mentioned at the UN Security Council session on 13 January, we are particularly concerned about the persistent level of violence towards human rights defenders and community leaders and have called on the Colombian Government to prioritise the tackling of this violence. We have regularly raised the need for a holistic approach to improving security conditions in rural areas.

Baroness Jean Coussins, 8 June 2020

My Lords, is the Minister aware of recent reports from Colombia that the army has been illegally compiling secret files on journalists, containing personal information on their contacts, homes, families and other private information? This undermines the peace process and I hope that the Minister will condemn it. Will he also tell the House what progress has been made since January this year, when, in the context of another question on journalists’ safety, I asked him whether equivalent protection could be negotiated for interpreters who work with journalists, especially in conflict zones? He said then that discussions were taking place on the proposal for a Security Council resolution, and I would be grateful if he could update the House.

Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon, Minister of State

My Lords, on the noble Baroness’s second question, obviously, given the focus on Covid-19, we have not been able to make progress on that Security Council resolution to the extent that I would have liked, as Minister for the UN. However, I assure her that our work in this respect will continue, and I will shortly have a discussion with our acting representative in New York on how we can make further progress. I will write to her regarding the question she raised concerning Colombia.

Clive Efford MP (Labour), 4 May 2020

To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs, what assessment he has made of the activity of (a) the Gaitanista Self-Defence Forces (AGC) in the Colombian department of Choco and (b) the response of the Colombian security forces to that situation; and if she make a statement.

Wendy Morton MP, Parliamentary Under-Secretary in the Foreign and Commonwealth Office and the Department for International Development

We are aware of reports of violence and intimidation by the Gaitanista Self-Defence Forces in parts of Colombia, and in particular the Chocó region. We remain extremely concerned about the continued presence of illegal armed groups in Colombia, and the impact their competition for control of illicit economies has on local people – even more so at this challenging time. The UK Embassy in Colombia is monitoring events in Chocó.

The UK has been vocal in expressing our concern about the effect the activity of these armed groups has on the future of peace in Colombia. We regularly raise these issues with the Colombian Government and in multilateral fora. Most recently, our Permanent Representative to the United Nations spoke on this issue at the UN Security Council on 14 April, and we consistently press the Colombian Government to focus on extending the rule of law to all parts of the country.

Colombia has made significant progress in its efforts to end the influence of such groups, and we remain steadfast in our support of the Colombian authorities as they work towards sustainable peace.

Clive Efford MP (Labour), 4 May 2020

To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs, what representations she has made to her Colombian counterpart on support for the transitional justice mechanisms of the Colombian peace process.

Wendy Morton MP, Parliamentary Under-Secretary in the Foreign and Commonwealth Office and the Department for International Development

President Duque’s Government has publicly committed to implementing the Peace Accords of 2016 in their entirety. In meetings with the President in London last year the then-Foreign Secretary made it clear that the UK sees the transitional justice system and the involvement of victims as vital parts of the 2016 accords. President Duque’s signing of the transitional justice law last June was a positive step forward, and we are pleased that the institutions have since begun their work.

We continue to emphasise our support for transitional justice in Colombia both with the government and in multilateral fora, including most recently at the UN Security Council on 14 April.

The UK Government has contributed over £26 million towards transitional justice mechanisms and victims of the conflict in Colombia since 2016. This includes supporting the truth commission’s work to gather testimony from Colombians abroad, including here in the UK. We will continue to work closely with the Colombian government and civil society on the peace process and related matters.

Dan Carden MP (Labour), 21 April 2020

To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs, what assessment he has made of the accuracy of media reports of killings of former FARC combatants that are taking part in the peace process.

Wendy Morton MP, Parliamentary Under-Secretary in the Foreign and Commonwealth Office and the Department for International Development

Following the change to date for answer of this PQ, I submitted a response by email on 26 March, with the following response. The Table Office have agreed this approach.

The UK shares the concerns of the Colombian Government regarding ongoing violence in Colombia, including the killings of former FARC combatants. We have been vocal in expressing our concern about the persistent high levels of violence and threats towards former FARC combatants and others, as well as the impact this has on the future of peace.

The United Kingdom welcomes the Colombian Government’s longstanding commitment to assisting former guerrilla fighters in transitioning to civilian life following the peace agreement of 2016. We have committed almost £45 million over 5 years through the United Kingdom’s Conflict, Stability and Security Fund for Colombia to support development across conflict-affected regions. We have done this through programmes designed to build state capacity to ensure the safety of former fighters, and of other vulnerable individuals and groups, including outside of official reincorporation zones.

We also raised our concern about this issue at the United Nations Security Council session on Colombia on 13 January, where we called on the Colombian government to accelerate its reintegration programmes for former combatants. We will continue to work closely with the Colombian government and civil society on the peace process and related matters.

Dan Carden MP (Labour), 21 April 2020

To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs, if he will make representations to his Colombian counterpart on the security situation for human rights defenders in Colombia.

Wendy Morton MP, Parliamentary Under-Secretary in the Foreign and Commonwealth Office and the Department for International Development

Following the change to date for answer of this PQ, I submitted a response by email on 26 March, with the following response. The Table Office have agreed this approach.

The United Kingdom remains concerned about the persistent level of violence towards human rights defenders in Colombia. We consistently raise these issues with the Colombian Government, and in multilateral fora, most recently at the UN Security Council on 13 January, and during President Duque’s visit to the UK in June 2019. Our Embassy in Bogota also continues to raise concerns about specific communities with the relevant state actors in Colombia.

Lloyd Russell-Moyle MP (Labour), 4 March 2020

Peace in Colombia is currently very unstable and the peace process is fragile. We are giving money for security reform, but no money for policing and community development. This year alone, 52 trade unionists and community leaders have been assassinated. Will the Government put in money to support policing and investigations?

Wendy Morton MP, Parliamentary Under-Secretary in Foreign and Commonwealth Office

The Government are aware of the situation in Colombia and Venezuela. The UK is one of the largest donors to the humanitarian response in Venezuela and the top donor to the Central Emergency Response Fund and Education Cannot Wait. I will come back to the hon. Gentleman in respect of his specific point on policing.

Lisa Cameron MP (Scottish National Party), 11 February 2020

To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs, what steps he is taking to encourage UK company compliance with UN guiding principles on business and human rights in Colombia.

Christopher Pincher, Minister of State for Europe and the Americas

The United Kingdom is committed to protecting and promoting human rights in Colombia, which the Foreign & Commonwealth Office (FCO) has designated a Human Rights Priority Country. The Government expects United Kingdom companies to comply fully with UN guiding principles on human rights in that country, and the FCO works to support and promote responsible practice by United Kingdom companies internationally.

We regularly call for the prioritisation of a human rights agenda in Colombia, most recently at the UN Security Council on 13 January. The United Kingdom remains committed to continuing our programming to support full compliance with human rights obligations in Colombia.

Lisa Cameron MP (Scottish National Party), 11 February 2020

To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs, what steps he is taking to monitor the effect of Government funding for Colombia on human rights and the peace process in that country.

Christopher Pincher, Minister of State for Europe and the Americas

The United Kingdom is committed to the implementation of the Peace Accords of 2016, and we remain steadfast in our support of the Colombian authorities as they seek to ensure sustainable peace in Colombia. We are proud to be the penholder on the issue at the United Nations Security Council, and have committed almost £45 million over 5 years through the United Kingdom Conflict Stability and Security Fund for Colombia to support development across conflict-affected regions. As a Human Rights Priority Country, our Embassy in Colombia also provides significant programming to help at-risk human rights defenders and to tackle the legacy of sexual violence from Colombia’s decades-long conflict.

The British Government undertakes extensive risk assessments when designing projects in Colombia and deciding which to fund, including any potential negative impact on human rights or the peace process. This includes the OSJA process, which ensures any United Kingdom overseas security and justice assistance (OSJA) work meets our human rights obligations and our values. We continually monitor the effects of our programme work in consultation with colleagues working in Colombia, making a thorough assessment of the impact of all of our projects.

Chris Bryant MP (Labour), 29 January 2020

International agribusiness in Colombia regularly steals land from campesino and indigenous peoples to cut down trees and plant acre after acre of palm oil crops, which is unsustainable for the future and bad for the environment. What are the Government saying to the Colombian Government to bring the peace process back on track so that indigenous people can have their land back?

Andrew Stephenson, Minister of State at the Foreign and Commonwealth Office

DFID supports the Tropical Forest Alliance 2020, a public-private initiative with 90 member organisations that is focused on realising private sector commitments to eliminate deforestation in the supply chains for palm oil, beef, soya and paper. This is one of our many initiatives to address the consequences of palm oil production.

Jo Stevens MP (Labour), 27 January 2020

To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs, what representations he has made to his Colombian counterpart on the safety and security of the 9,000 FARC members living outside of official reincorporation zones in Colombia.

Christopher Pincher, Minister of State for Europe and the Americas

The United Kingdom welcomes the Colombian Government’s longstanding commitment to assisting former guerrilla fighters transition to civilian life following the peace agreement of 2016. We have committed almost £45 million over 5 years through the United Kingdom conflict Stability and Security Fund for Colombia to support development across conflict-affected regions. We have done this through programmes designed to build state capacity to ensure the safety of former fighters and of other vulnerable individuals and groups, including outside of official reincorporation zones.

Our Embassy regularly raises concerns about specific communities with the relevant state actors in Colombia.

We also raised our concern about this issue at the United Nations Security Council session on Colombia on 13 January, where we called on the Colombian government to accelerate its reintegration programmes for former combatants. We will continue to work closely with the Colombian government and civil society on the peace process and related matters.

Jo Stevens MP (Labour), 27 January 2020

To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs, if he will make representations to his Colombian counterpart on the violence against (a) social activists and (b) FARC former combatants in that country; and if he will make a statement.

Christopher Pincher, Minister of State for Europe and the Americas

The United Kingdom shares the concerns of the Colombian Government regarding the ongoing violence in Colombia as organised armed groups fight for control of illicit economies. We have been vocal in expressing our concern about the persistent high levels of violence and threats towards social activists, former FARC combatants and others, and the impact this has on the future of peace.

We regularly raise these issues with the Colombian Government and in multilateral fora. Most recently, our Permanent Representative to the United Nations spoke on this issue at the UN Security Council on 13 January. Our Embassy regularly raises concerns about specific communities with the relevant state actors in Colombia.

We remain steadfast in our support of the Colombian authorities as they work towards sustainable peace, and will continue to work closely with the Colombian Government and civil society on the peace process and related matters.

Jo Stevens MP (Labour), 27 January 2020

To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs, whether he has made an assessment of the implications for his policies of the 8 January 2020 UN Security Council Mission to Colombia report on the state of the Colombian peace process; and if he will make a statement.

Christopher Pincher, Minister of State for Europe and the Americas

The United Kingdom is proud to act as penholder for the Colombian peace process in the UN Security Council, and supports the important work the UN Verification Mission does to monitor the progress made following the 2016 agreement. We welcomed the Special Representative‘s latest report to the Security Council, and agreed with his assessment of the situation.

We were glad to see President Duque’s announcement that he would like the UN Mission to stay in Colombia until at least 2022, and commend the Colombian Government on the successes it has achieved so far.

As we mentioned in the UN Security Council session on 13 January following the Special Representative’s report, the United Kingdom remains particularly concerned about the persistent level of violence towards human rights defenders, community leaders and former FARC combatants. We have called on the Colombian Government to prioritise the tackling of this violence and to improve security conditions around the country, as well as accelerating implementation of reintegration programmes for former fighters. The United Kingdom is also committed to continuing its own programming to support the Government’s efforts and mitigate risks to communities.