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Харьковская областная газета "столица будущего"



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^ Colombia: Fact-Finding Mission "Shocked"

Constanza Vieira
Friday 10 April 2009

A delegation of seven British Labour members of parliament and 10 trade union leaders from the U.S., Canada and Britain said they were in a "state of shock" over what they heard during a week-long fact-finding mission to Colombia.

In a strongly worded statement read out in Spanish at a press conference Wednesday in the Colombian Congress, the parliamentary and labour mission accused the government of right-wing President Álvaro Uribe of being an "accomplice of crimes against humanity."

Crimes against humanity are defined by Article 7 of the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court (ICC), based in this city in the Netherlands, as "any of the following acts when committed as part of a widespread or systematic attack directed against any civilian population, with knowledge of the attack: murder; extermination; enslavement; deportation….; imprisonment…; torture; rape, sexual slavery, enforced prostitution, forced pregnancy, enforced sterilisation…; persecution against any identifiable group or collectivity on political, racial, national, ethnic, cultural, religious, gender (grounds)...; (or) enforced disappearance of persons".

The Rome Statute went into effect in Colombia in November 2002 for crimes against humanity, as well as genocide, which is defined in Article 6. But this country availed itself of Article 124, which allows a signatory state to refuse to accept the jurisdiction of the ICC with respect to war crimes "'alleged to have been committed by its nationals or in its territory" for seven years – a period that ends in November this year.

For now, the ICC prosecutors are keeping Colombia under observation.

"We have no doubts, given the evidence received, that the Colombian government of Álvaro Uribe and the security forces are accomplices in human rights abuses," says the communiqué read out by British Labour MP Sandra Osborne, a member of the House of Commons Foreign Affairs Committee.

"We are also convinced that the murderous activities of the paramilitaries are approved of and actively supported by the government and the army," the statement says, referring to the far-right militias commanded by drug lords, which partially demobilised after negotiations with the Uribe administration.

These crimes are aggravated by the impunity enjoyed by the perpetrators, and the judicial system's failure to prosecute the criminals and those who gave the orders, it adds.

Colombia has been in the grip of a civil war since 1964, when the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) and the National Liberation Army (ELN) guerrillas rose up in arms.

The paramilitary groups, in their present form, emerged in the 1980s to combat the leftist insurgents alongside the government forces.

An October 2008 report by the London-based rights watchdog Amnesty International states that 1,300 civilians were killed outside of combat in 2006 and 1,400 in 2007, while some 270,000 people fled their homes in the first half of 2008 - a 41 percent increase in forced displacement with respect to the previous year.

According to the European Union, only eight out of 100 homicides lead to a conviction in Colombia, and at least 1,200 civilians have been killed since mid-2002 and passed off by the Colombian military as guerrillas or paramilitaries killed in action.

In its seven-day visit to Colombia, the mission gathered information on human rights abuses and violations of labour rights, and met with a wide range of actors from Colombian society, covering civic, political, judicial and military interests and including trade unionists, students, teachers, indigenous people, peasant farmers, trade union lawyers, human rights defenders and released FARC hostages, said the statement read by Osborne.

Since 2008, the FARC has released eight politicians it had taken hostage with the hopes of negotiating with the government a swap of hostages for imprisoned rebels.

Three other political hostages, including former presidential candidate Ingrid Betancourt, escaped or were rescued, along with a number of soldiers and police being held by the guerrillas.

The parliamentary and labour delegation travelled to the eastern oil-producing department (province) of Arauca, on the border with Venezuela, where they heard the personal accounts of local people affected by the war, and visited the women's prison and imprisoned local human rights activist Martín Sandoval.

They also met with Uribe and high-level officials, but their reaction was not published locally.

Instead of imprisoning the real criminals, the government has imprisoned trade unionists, members of the political opposition, and human rights defenders like Sandoval, says the statement, which calls for his "immediate release, and the immediate release of other political prisoners and trade unionists."

The members of the mission announced that when they return to their countries, "we will be calling for an immediate end to all military and political support for the Colombian government."

They also urged that no free trade agreement with Colombia be approved until human and labour rights are respected in an internationally verifiable manner.

The free trade deal negotiated with the United States has been held up by Democratic lawmakers in the U.S. Congress over similar concerns about violence against trade unionists in Colombia.

But in Canada, the conservative government of Prime Minister Stephen Harper tabled the Canada-Colombia free trade agreement on Mar. 26, which means parliament had 21 days from that date to debate its ratification.

And the second round of talks between three Andean countries – Colombia, Peru and Ecuador – and the European Union on a free trade deal took place in mid-March in Lima, Peru.

The fact-finding mission warned that it would publicly expose the complicity of multinational corporations in violations of human and labour rights in Colombia.

The members of the mission said they would work to put an end to the criminalisation of legitimate, democratic opposition, support eventual peace talks and a hostage-prisoner swap between the FARC and the government, and work to bring to a halt the extrajudicial executions of civilians passed off as battlefield casualties by the Colombian army.

The delegation included Labour MP Peter Kilfoyle, a former British defence minister who resigned in 2000, unhappy with some of then Prime Minister Tony Blair's policies.

The mission was organised by Justice for Colombia, a British NGO created in 2002 – a year when 184 trade unionists were killed in this country, considered the most dangerous place in the world to be a labour activist.

Justice for Colombia is a coalition of 40 British trade unions, along with trade councils, NGOs, academics and MPs, "who support the Colombian people and trade union movement in their struggle for peace with social justice."

In September 2007, Justice for Colombia drew the ire of Colombian Defence Minister Juan Manuel Santos when it urged Britain's recently inaugurated Prime Minister Gordon Brown and his foreign secretary to halt military aid to Bogotá.

British military aid to Colombia is second only to U.S. aid, of which Colombia is the third biggest recipient, after Israel and Egypt.

The 2007 "End British Military Aid to Colombia Petition" was signed by all of the then members of the Labour Party National Executive Committee who did not form part of the government, all of the Labour MPs in the European Parliament, dozens of British Labour MPs, and all of the trade unions affiliated with the Labour Party.

"Colombians tend to believe this kind of declaration is extremely important, and that something will start to happen now," like a change in policies of military aid to the government, human rights activist Lilia Solano told IPS by telephone from Bogotá.

"But we have to wait and see what results will be achieved; we aren't sure it will be that effective," she added.

http://prensarural.org/spip/spip.php?mot95


The 4th Humanitarian Action for Northeastern Antioquia



Cahucopana
Friday 1 May 2009

From its birth, the Humanitarian Action Co-operative for Co-Existence and Peace in Northeastern Antioquia (CAHUCOPANA) has been putting forward a constant struggle to defend and promote the rights of the peasants (campesinos) in the region through denouncements, development zones, and humanitarian refuges as a mechanism to prevent the displacement of communities. It has also brought about three humanitarian actions that have looked for a way to break the military and paramilitary blockade that has been imposed in the zone.

To continue these tasks, CAHUCOPANA convenes the 4th Humanitarian Action for Northeastern Antioquia, that will take place from the 15th to the 19th of May in the rural region (vereda) of Puerto Nuevo Ité, jurisdiction in the municipality of Remedios (Department of Antioquia), to reject extrajudicial executions and the stigmatization and persecution of peasant organizations (organizaciones campesinas) in the area. To this end, we hope to rely with the support and solidarity of regional, national and international organizations, and thus continue with the defense and struggle for the dignity of the campesinos of the region.

The 4th Humanitarian Action for Northeastern Antioquia is born from the necessity to make known the humanitarian crisis in which we, the peasant communities of Northeastern Antioquia, find ourselves in. And that has for several years endured the militarization, persecution, false accusations, and judicial farces against peasant organizations (organizaciones campesinas) and their leaders by the Colombian state, which not only generate fear and displacement among the communities, but also tear apart the existing social fabric of the region.

A sample of this are the multiple cases of extrajudicial killings in which the peasants (campesinos) of our rural areas (veredas) are assassinated and then identified as guerrillas fallen in combat, as happened with our brothers Heriberto Correa, Sigilfredo Castaño, Pablo Emilio Agudelo, León Benitez, William Hernán Sánchez, Carlos Mario García David, Miguel Ángel Gonzáles Gutiérrez and Luis Horacio Ladino Guarumo; these crimes were committed by troops of the Colombian army, attached to the Batalla de Calibío Battalion of the 14th Brigade, and remain unpunished.

This is in addition to state abandonment, low social investment, a lack of schools and health clinics and other rights that make possible conditions to enjoy a life with dignity. This entire attack has been the only response to the insatiable struggle of our peasant communities to demand respect for our rights, which have now just become promises that have never been honored by the national government.


^ Colombia: Fact-Finding Mission "Shocked"


Constanza Vieira
Friday 10 April 2009

A delegation of seven British Labour members of parliament and 10 trade union leaders from the U.S., Canada and Britain said they were in a "state of shock" over what they heard during a week-long fact-finding mission to Colombia.

In a strongly worded statement read out in Spanish at a press conference Wednesday in the Colombian Congress, the parliamentary and labour mission accused the government of right-wing President Álvaro Uribe of being an "accomplice of crimes against humanity."

Crimes against humanity are defined by Article 7 of the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court (ICC), based in this city in the Netherlands, as "any of the following acts when committed as part of a widespread or systematic attack directed against any civilian population, with knowledge of the attack: murder; extermination; enslavement; deportation….; imprisonment…; torture; rape, sexual slavery, enforced prostitution, forced pregnancy, enforced sterilisation…; persecution against any identifiable group or collectivity on political, racial, national, ethnic, cultural, religious, gender (grounds)...; (or) enforced disappearance of persons".

The Rome Statute went into effect in Colombia in November 2002 for crimes against humanity, as well as genocide, which is defined in Article 6. But this country availed itself of Article 124, which allows a signatory state to refuse to accept the jurisdiction of the ICC with respect to war crimes "'alleged to have been committed by its nationals or in its territory" for seven years – a period that ends in November this year.

For now, the ICC prosecutors are keeping Colombia under observation.

"We have no doubts, given the evidence received, that the Colombian government of Álvaro Uribe and the security forces are accomplices in human rights abuses," says the communiqué read out by British Labour MP Sandra Osborne, a member of the House of Commons Foreign Affairs Committee.

"We are also convinced that the murderous activities of the paramilitaries are approved of and actively supported by the government and the army," the statement says, referring to the far-right militias commanded by drug lords, which partially demobilised after negotiations with the Uribe administration.

These crimes are aggravated by the impunity enjoyed by the perpetrators, and the judicial system's failure to prosecute the criminals and those who gave the orders, it adds.

Colombia has been in the grip of a civil war since 1964, when the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) and the National Liberation Army (ELN) guerrillas rose up in arms.

The paramilitary groups, in their present form, emerged in the 1980s to combat the leftist insurgents alongside the government forces.

An October 2008 report by the London-based rights watchdog Amnesty International states that 1,300 civilians were killed outside of combat in 2006 and 1,400 in 2007, while some 270,000 people fled their homes in the first half of 2008 - a 41 percent increase in forced displacement with respect to the previous year.

According to the European Union, only eight out of 100 homicides lead to a conviction in Colombia, and at least 1,200 civilians have been killed since mid-2002 and passed off by the Colombian military as guerrillas or paramilitaries killed in action.

In its seven-day visit to Colombia, the mission gathered information on human rights abuses and violations of labour rights, and met with a wide range of actors from Colombian society, covering civic, political, judicial and military interests and including trade unionists, students, teachers, indigenous people, peasant farmers, trade union lawyers, human rights defenders and released FARC hostages, said the statement read by Osborne.

Since 2008, the FARC has released eight politicians it had taken hostage with the hopes of negotiating with the government a swap of hostages for imprisoned rebels.

Three other political hostages, including former presidential candidate Ingrid Betancourt, escaped or were rescued, along with a number of soldiers and police being held by the guerrillas.

The parliamentary and labour delegation travelled to the eastern oil-producing department (province) of Arauca, on the border with Venezuela, where they heard the personal accounts of local people affected by the war, and visited the women's prison and imprisoned local human rights activist Martín Sandoval.

They also met with Uribe and high-level officials, but their reaction was not published locally.

Instead of imprisoning the real criminals, the government has imprisoned trade unionists, members of the political opposition, and human rights defenders like Sandoval, says the statement, which calls for his "immediate release, and the immediate release of other political prisoners and trade unionists."

The members of the mission announced that when they return to their countries, "we will be calling for an immediate end to all military and political support for the Colombian government."

They also urged that no free trade agreement with Colombia be approved until human and labour rights are respected in an internationally verifiable manner.

The free trade deal negotiated with the United States has been held up by Democratic lawmakers in the U.S. Congress over similar concerns about violence against trade unionists in Colombia.

But in Canada, the conservative government of Prime Minister Stephen Harper tabled the Canada-Colombia free trade agreement on Mar. 26, which means parliament had 21 days from that date to debate its ratification.

And the second round of talks between three Andean countries – Colombia, Peru and Ecuador – and the European Union on a free trade deal took place in mid-March in Lima, Peru.

The fact-finding mission warned that it would publicly expose the complicity of multinational corporations in violations of human and labour rights in Colombia.

The members of the mission said they would work to put an end to the criminalisation of legitimate, democratic opposition, support eventual peace talks and a hostage-prisoner swap between the FARC and the government, and work to bring to a halt the extrajudicial executions of civilians passed off as battlefield casualties by the Colombian army.

The delegation included Labour MP Peter Kilfoyle, a former British defence minister who resigned in 2000, unhappy with some of then Prime Minister Tony Blair's policies.

The mission was organised by Justice for Colombia, a British NGO created in 2002 – a year when 184 trade unionists were killed in this country, considered the most dangerous place in the world to be a labour activist.

Justice for Colombia is a coalition of 40 British trade unions, along with trade councils, NGOs, academics and MPs, "who support the Colombian people and trade union movement in their struggle for peace with social justice."

In September 2007, Justice for Colombia drew the ire of Colombian Defence Minister Juan Manuel Santos when it urged Britain's recently inaugurated Prime Minister Gordon Brown and his foreign secretary to halt military aid to Bogotá.

British military aid to Colombia is second only to U.S. aid, of which Colombia is the third biggest recipient, after Israel and Egypt.

The 2007 "End British Military Aid to Colombia Petition" was signed by all of the then members of the Labour Party National Executive Committee who did not form part of the government, all of the Labour MPs in the European Parliament, dozens of British Labour MPs, and all of the trade unions affiliated with the Labour Party.

"Colombians tend to believe this kind of declaration is extremely important, and that something will start to happen now," like a change in policies of military aid to the government, human rights activist Lilia Solano told IPS by telephone from Bogotá.

"But we have to wait and see what results will be achieved; we aren't sure it will be that effective," she added.

-----------------

http://prensarural.org/spip/spip.php?mot95


21 Days to Stop the Canada-Colombia FTA

Across the Americas
Tuesday 7 April 2009

The Canada-Colombia "free trade agreement" is now on its way through the Canadian Parliament for ratification. The current ultra-conservative Canadian government launched the process of ratification, but it is supported by Liberal Party leader Michael Ignatieff; if other Liberals fall in line behind Ignatieff, this damaging agreement will be ratified. Parliament has 21 working days to debate the text of the agreement, which is quite similar to that of the US-Colombia FTA.

Without a doubt, ratification of the Canada-Colombia FTA would be used in Washington as a way to pressure the Obama administration and the US Congress with the argument "If Canada is willing to sign an agreement, the United States must do so too."

Canadians and Colombians are issuing urgent calls to join their struggle against their countries' FTA. They tell us that support from people in the US is very important and highly appreciated. Thus we are working in direct coordination with social movements in Canada and Colombia, and strategies for supporting this struggle from the United States are quickly being fine-tuned. The effort must take high priority—it's our last chance to oppose this FTA.

Remember, if the Canada-Colombia FTA passes, the way will be paved for the US-Colombia FTA and other pending agreements. Please contact us if you want to help.

In the coming days we'll be in touch again with actions and letters so that you can speak out. For now, below you will find a March 31, 2009, letter sent from congresspersons in Colombia to their counterparts in Canada, urging a NO vote on ratification.

— -

Across the Americas
P.O. Box 268733 <— new
Chicago, IL 60626-8733
773-938-1036 (phone and fax)
http://www.acrosstheamericas.org
info@acrosstheamericas.org

Bogotá, 31 March 2009

International Trade Committee of the Canadian Parliament

Ottawa, Canada

The undersigned Colombian senators and representatives most cordially invite you to not approve the Free Trade Agreement (FTA) signed by the governments of Canada and Colombia.

In brief, there are two main reasons for our request:

Almost twenty years of "free trade" in Colombia show that such policies cause major damage to the urban and rural economies of our country, place the State in the service of powerful monopolies and transnationals, further concentrate wealth, and increase unemployment and poverty. In addition, the current international economic crisis and Canada's experience spanning several decades show that "free trade" is also not positive for Canadian workers.

The FTA between Colombia and Canada may serve powerful economic interests in the two countries, but not their respective peoples.

Secondly, the U.S. Democratic Party is completely right in stating that the Colombian government headed by President Alvaro Uribe would not pass a human rights test, especially with respect to the violence against trade unionists and the impunity that the government enjoys. It is obvious that an FTA between Canada and Colombia will be used in the United States and Europe as a sort of absolution of the Colombian government in this regard. Is the Canadian government certain that it can issue such an absolution? How does that decision serve the Canadian people?

Instead of the FTA, parliamentarians from the two countries must seek the best means of establishing relations between our peoples.

Sincerely,

Signing Senators:
Jorge Enrique Robledo Castillo, Gloria Inés Ramírez, Luis Carlos Avellaneda, Alexander López, Parmenio Cuellar, Jesús Bernal.

Signing Representatives to the Chamber:
Germán Enrique Reyes Forero, Germán Navas Talero, Pedro Obando, River Franflin Legro, René Garzón, María Isabel Urrutia, Venus Albeiro Silva Gómez, Wilson Borja Díaz.

[signatures follow]

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