Written Answers. - Foreign Conflicts.

Finian McGrath

Question:

111 Mr. F. McGrath asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs if his attention has been drawn to the situation in Columbia in relation to trade unions and voluntary groups being under serious threats from death squads; and if he will highlight this matter at the UN. [15092/02]

In common with our EU partners and the wider international community, we have strongly condemned the persistent and increasing attacks by Colombian paramilitaries against human rights defenders, including trade unionists. While we welcomed measures undertaken by the Colombian Ministry of the Interior to protect social and human rights defenders, including the establishment of a protection programme for trade union activists and journalists, in addition to the previously existing and broader special programme for the protection of witnesses and threatened persons, we continue to urge the Colombian authorities to take action to ensure that these measures are fully implemented and adequately funded.

Human rights abuses against trade unions and voluntary groups in Colombia were raised at the 58th session of the United Nations Commission on Human Rights earlier this year. The commission deplored "attacks against the life, physical integrity and safety and freedom of movement of human rights defenders, trade union leaders and Church dignitaries".

At the same session, the EU condemned "the abuses of human rights committed against all who work towards justice and the respect of human rights, namely judges, human rights defenders, indigenous leaders, members of Parliament, journalists, unions leaders and dignitaries of the church". 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.