Wednesday, July 18, 2007

AI report on the killing of trade unionists in Columbia

An Amnesty report on the death of trade unionists in Columbia released at the beginning of July is also relevant to Stephen Harper's trip to Latin America:

You can find a summary to the report here. Here is an excerpt:
More than 2,000 trade unionists have been killed and more than 180 have been victims of enforced disappearance in Colombia over the last two decades. In more than 90 per cent of cases, those responsible have not been brought to justice. Despite a reduction in recent years in the number of trade unionists killed, Amnesty International (AI) considers that the human rights situation facing trade unionists remains serious. The Colombian authorities have taken some steps to improve their safety. However, more decisive action must be taken to ensure that freedom of association rights are respected, in practice as well as in law.

Despite the supposed demobilization of army-backed paramilitary groups, trade unionists continue to be threatened and killed by paramilitaries who have ostensibly been demobilized. The security forces have also been directly responsible for killing trade unionists and instigating arbitrary criminal proceedings against them. AI considers that a co-ordinated military-paramilitary strategy designed to undermine the work of trade unionists continues to be pursued both through their physical elimination and by seeking to discredit the legitimacy of trade union work. Guerrilla forces have also been responsible for killings of trade unionists.

It is not always possible to determine the motivation behind killings or death threats against trade unionists. In the context of Colombia’s long-running internal armed conflict, trade unionists have often been targeted for human rights abuses because of their political affiliation or motives other than their trade union activities. However, there is a pattern of human rights abuses against trade unionists taking place in the context of labour disputes which indicates that trade unionists are targeted precisely because of their trade union work.

AI considers that the international community has an important role to play in efforts to guarantee the right to freedom of association in Colombia. The decision of the International Labour Organization (ILO) in 2006 to appoint a permanent representative to Colombia to observe freedom of association rights provides a welcome opportunity for the international community to monitor closely the human rights crisis faced by trade unionists and to call on the Colombian authorities to take decisive action to ensure their safety.

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