Sinn Féin’s spokesperson on Foreign Affairs, Seán Crowe TD, has called on the acting Minister for Foreign Affairs, Charlie Flanagan, to urgently and directly raise the cases of 30 political and community activists who have been assassinated in Colombia with the Colombian Government.

Deputy Crowe said:

“I have written to the acting Irish Minister for Foreign Affairs, Charlie Flanagan, to bring to his attention that 30 civilians have been assassinated in Colombia over a 30 day period (21 February to 18 March 2016).

“The dead include 16 political activists, including trade unionists, and 14 community activists. This list was compiled by Justice for Colombia, an NGO that campaigns for human rights, workers’ rights, and the search for peace with social justice in Colombia.

“In my correspondence I also raised the case of Piedad Cordoba, a former Colombian Senator and a journalist for TeleSur, who has been instrumental in forging a path to peace with social justice in Colombia, and who narrowly escaped an attempt on her life in Quibdo, Choco, Colombia only last week.

“The FARC and Colombian Government peace negotiations have so far been productive and are by all accounts on the cusp of peace deal. The ELN have also recently opened formal negotiations with the Colombian government, which is a positive development and confidence building measure.

“However, the situation on the ground is worrying, as the right wing paramilitaries have been assassinating and reportedly threatening an increased number of people. It’s also causing concern for the negotiators as to what they will face post agreement.

“I urged the Minister to directly raise these 30 assassinations and the attempted assassination with the Colombia Government and to encourage them to ensure that each one is fully investigated, that the perpetrators are brought to justice, and that the Colombian Government is more proactive in ensuring that political and community activists can operate freely and without the threat of assassination.

“I also encouraged Minister Flanagan to raise the issue with his European counterparts. Proponents of the Colombia-EU Free Trade Agreement repeatedly stated that it would improve human rights in Colombia, but these 30 assassinations in 30 days flies in the face of those claims.”