Written Answers. - Human Rights Abuses.

Derek McDowell

Question:

180 Mr. McDowell asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs if he will make representations to the authorities in Colombia in relation to the treatment of persons (details supplied). [7555/01]

I share the Deputy's concern with regard to the threats which have been made against the persons named in the material provided with his question. Our Embassy in Mexico City has confirmed that these people have been threatened. They are members of a trade union which, along with 50 other such groups, has been recognised by the Colombian authorities as requiring special protection. I understand that the regrettable fact is that last year alone a total of 128 trade unionists were killed in Colombia, and that already this year a further 28 have been murdered.

In common with our EU partners and the wider international community, we have strongly condemned the persistent and increasing attacks by paramilitaries against human rights defenders in Colombia, including trade unionists. While we welcome the measures undertaken by the Colombian Ministry of the Interior to protect social and human rights defenders, including the establishment of a new protection programme for trade union activists and journalists, in addition to the existing and broader special programme for the protection of witnesses and threatened persons, we urge the Colombian authorities to take action to ensure that these measures are fully implemented and adequately funded. In the same context, we welcome the new proposals announced by the Colombian Government in January to tackle paramilitary groups and we urge it to take concrete measures to give full effect to these proposals.

The EU will continue to stress to the Colombian authorities the need to address the lack of effective judicial investigations into crimes against social and human rights defenders as well as the insufficient legal, administrative, security and financial measures to protect those social and human rights defenders who find themselves at risk. This emphasis on full respect for human rights will continue to underpin Ireland's policy toward Colombia, as well as our contribution to the EU programme of support for the peace process in Colombia.