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Irlanda / Gran Bretaña - Anarchist Communist Event
Saturday March 28 2009
18:00 hrs

The Colombian conflict and Europe: turning a blind eye to gross human rights abuses?

category irlanda / gran bretaña | imperialismo / guerra | anarchist communist event author Saturday March 28, 2009 17:43author by Grupo Raíces - Grúpa Fréamhacha Report this post to the editors

Public talk, Saturday 28th of March, 14:00 o’clock, Hotel Premier Inn four corner, Donegall Pass, to let the public know of the current situation on Colombia, of the efforts and struggle of social organisations to defend their rights and of ways to support and show active solidarity with the Colombian people.

The Colombian conflict and Europe: turning a blind eye to gross human rights abuses?

Venue: Hotel Premier Inn-Four Corner
Donegal Street

Date: Saturday 28th of March,

Time: 14:00-16:00

The Colombian appalling war of terror against trade unionists, indigenous peoples and communities seldom gets the attention it deserves in the media. Chain saw massacres, forced disappearances and rape, have been a persistent scourge of the people and villages through 60 years of political violence. The death toll and the numbers of displaced people have been on the raise since the mid-90s with the escalation of the dirty war through right-wing paramilitaries linked to the army (between 1998 and 2003 alone they murdered over 15,000 people) and with the implementation of Plan Colombia since year 2000. The current government of Álvaro Uribe has consolidated the grip of the far-right linked to paramilitarism over the country through intimidation, terror and control of the media, turning harassment to social organisations, NGOs and the opposition into a perfectly normal feature of public life. It is important to state that both the US and the EU have been stubborn supporters of Uribe’s government, often turning a blind eye to systematic and gruesome human rights abuses.

At present, the government is being challenged by larger and larger segments of society who, in spite of the still prevailing fear and in spite of the constant threats to any form of opposition (threats which are regularly voiced by the president himself) are breaking the silence. The Colombian courts are also increasingly challenging the illegal practices that plague the government. Even the US government seems to feel embarrassment on the excesses of the regime and we saw the Free Trade Agreement negotiations between the US and Colombia fail as Obama argued that the human rights record of the government, particularly when it comes to trade unionists, made it impossible for his administration to go ahead with it. However, the EU seems to feel so comfortable with the Colombian establishment that it started discussing a Free Trade Agreement a month ago, where human rights abuses are not even a matter of discussion!

This changing environment has opened a space for social movements which was unthinkable just a couple of years ago, after the wave of paramilitary terror destroyed all autonomous social networks. So we are witnessing the birth and growth of a broad coalition which gathers trade unions, peasant organisations, Indigenous communities, Afro-Colombians’ movements, women's groups and grassroots Christian communities coming together under the banner of the Coalition of Social Movements (COMOSOC). On the 16th-19th of October 2008, the COMOSOC held a national conference where issues such as a peace agenda with social justice, the rights of victims and the struggle for social rights were discussed. An Irish delegation was present at the event to strengthen the solidarity links we built for the last year. This is just one aspect of a much broader movement for change, for democracy, for social justice and for a political solution to the conflict which leads to much necessary peace. In Ireland, two initiatives have been born in order to express concrete solidarity with the Colombian social movements: Grupo Raíces (Grúpa Fréamhacha) which is the Irish representative of the COMOSOC and the Irish branch of Justice for Colombia, a UK-based Trade Union organisation of permanent support to Colombian trade unionist. The latter was formed recently by ICTU trade unionists.

In order to raise awareness on the delicate human rights situation in Colombia, to inform the public of current developments and to express active solidarity with the Colombian social movements, the above mentioned organisations are doing a public talk in Belfast. A documentary will be screened "Colombian trade unionists in the firing line" (Justice for Colombia, 2006. 5 minutes).


Miguel Puerto is a Colombian lawyer with 20 years experience in human rights and is the Colombian/Latin America coordinator of the International Centre for Trade Union Rights (ICTUR). He has taken denunciations of grave human right violations to trade unionists to an international level and has been securing that these cases do not remain in impunity. He is a member of the well known group of Colombian human rights lawyers known as José Alvear Restrepo Collective.

Fr. Raymond Murray, Chaplain of Armagh’s Prison, had been since the start of the “Troubles” active in the Civil Rights Movement. He denounced the torture of Republican prisoners and became vocal in his defence of human rights and of a negotiated and political solution to the Ulster conflict. He is author of “State Violence: Northern Ireland, 1969-1997” (1998).

Mick Dowling is the Branch Organiser for the Kildare-Athy branch of SIPTU and is the Chairman of the Irish branch of Justice for Colombia. He attended the COMOSOC conference last October representing his trade union.

Organised by:

Grupo Raíces (Grúpa Fréamhacha); an initiative of Colombian, Irish and Latin American residents in the Republic of Ireland to practice actual solidarity with social movements in Colombia.

Justice for Colombia (Irish branch); is a Trade Union-based UK and Irish NGO that campaigns for human rights, workers' rights and the search for peace with social justice in Colombia.

Latinoamerica Unida Association, Northern Ireland, Latinoamerica Unida was formally established on 2000 as a charity organization and most recently become a limited company. Our main aims can be summarized as: Providing support and assistance to members of the rapidly growing Latin American community in Northern Ireland through advice, information and training opportunities as well as social and cultural activities; Promoting good relations between the Latin American community and the broader community through initiatives to promote anti-racism and cultural diversity.

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