Tuesday, 7 November 2017

Questions (460)

Seán Crowe


460. Deputy Seán Crowe asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade if his attention has been drawn to the murder of a person (details supplied) in a rural area of Tumaco, Colombia; if his attention has been further drawn to the fact that the community council in the area has repeatedly denounced human rights violations against the Afro-Colombian, Mestizo and indigenous persons in the region; his views on the Colombian Government's programme of forced coca eradication and the methods it has used which has resulted in a number of deadly clashes between communities and security forces; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [46413/17]

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Written answers (Question to Foreign)

I am aware of the case to which the Deputy refers, that of Mr. José Jair Cortés, who was killed in Tumaco in the Nariño province of Colombia on 17 October, in the aftermath of another incident of violence which occurred there on 5 October and resulted in the deaths of at least seven civilians and the wounding of many more. I wish, first of all, to extend to the family of Mr. Jair Cortés, as well as to all of those affected by the recent incidents of violence in this region, my sincere sympathies and condolences.

Incidences of violence and intimidation against local communities in marginalised rural areas of Colombia, notably among Afro-Colombian and indigenous communities, as well as the continued presence of armed groups in such communities, remain a matter of great concern, as evident from the views expressed by the local community council and referred to by the Deputy.

Tumaco is among the regions of Colombia which has suffered most consequences of the country’s conflict. It is important that the programme of forced eradication of coca crops in this and other regions is carried out with due regard for the rights and well-being of the local communities.

I am glad of this opportunity to reiterate that such violence is entirely unacceptable. I urge the Government of Colombia to ensure that these incidents are thoroughly investigated and their perpetrators brought to justice.

The governor of the Nariño Department has issued a statement condemning the killing of Mr. Jair Cortés and calling for a full investigation into his death, and I would support that call.

I note also that the President of Colombia has instructed the National Police and the Colombian Armed Forces to cooperate with the Colombian DPP to determine what occurred in the incident of 5 October, and that the Colombian National Police has ordered the suspension of four of its officers in connection with that incident.

I welcome these statements as a sign of the resolve of the Colombian authorities to address this deplorable violence. The Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade has an ongoing commitment to supporting peace and human rights in the most affected areas of Colombia and officials from my Department visited Nariño in 2015 and 2016. As well as ongoing exchanges with the Colombian authorities at Government level, officials of my Department engage regularly with human rights defenders and civil society leaders active across Colombia, including those working in some of the communities most affected by conflict.

The recent acts of violence in Tumaco are a cause for great concern. At the same time, however, we must acknowledge the strides which have been made in the implementation of the peace process in Colombia to date. The full decommissioning of FARC weapons was completed by July 2017, eight months after the agreement was finalised. A cease-fire with the country’s second largest guerrilla group, the ELN, took effect at the beginning of October. The peace process provides the framework in which the endemic violence and impunity which has afflicted Colombian society for decades can successfully be addressed. Ireland is committed to supporting its full implementation to ensure a future of peace for all Colombians.