Sinn Féin’s spokesperson on Foreign Affairs, Seán Crowe TD, has raised the continued attacks and assassinations of civil society and community activists in Colombia, with the Minister for Foreign Affairs, Charlie Flanagan, and the recent assassination attempt of opposition leader Imelda Daza.
Deputy Crowe said:
“Prior to my questioning in the Dáil, I personally wrote to the Minister and asked him to urgently and directly raise the cases of 30 political and community activists who have been assassinated over a 30 day period in Colombia with the Colombian Government.
“The dead included 16 political activists, including trade unionists, and 14 others who were leaders and active in their community. They were assassinated over the course of 30 days, one person per day, from 21 February to 18 March. The list was compiled by Justice for Colombia, a NGO that campaigns for human rights, workers’ rights and the search for peace with social justice in Colombia.
“From his refusal to directly answer my question it seems more than likely that the Minister did not do this, nor did he raise it during the discussion on Colombia at the meeting of the European Union Foreign Ministers on 18 and 19 April 2016.
“Recently when debating the Colombia-EU Free Trade Agreement in the Dáil, I referred to the horrendous human rights abuses being perpetrated in Colombia. A total of 534 political activists were murdered in Colombia between 2011 and 2015.
“Speakers from the Government side repeatedly suggested that we were wrong and that free trade would somehow improve the human rights of individuals in Colombia, but the assassination of these 30 activists flies in the face of their naïve assertions.
“There have been considerable and positive changes in Colombia recently, including the historic peace talks between the FARC and Colombian Government representatives in Havana. This is a really positive development, but we must be aware that community and political activists are being executed on a daily basis in Colombia.
“This intensification and ratcheting up of murder and fear is unfortunately following an all too familiar pattern for Colombians.”
“I also raised with the Minister the attempted assassination of Imelda Daza, one of the leaders of the left wing Patriotic Union on Friday, 6 May.
“The Irish Government and others are asking Colombians to stand up for peace, democracy, justice, and equality, but at the same time their lives are being threatened by paramilitary death squads who are linked to the right wing and the ruling classes in Colombia.
“While I welcome the Colombian Governments engagement in the Peace Process, I am extremely concerned by their lack of action to reign in and acknowledge the existence and ongoing danger emanating from right wing paramilitary groups in Colombia, and to dismantle their structures.
“I am again calling on the Irish Government to use every international opportunity to raise the continued attacks on and assassinations of community and political activists in Colombia.
“The Colombian Government for its part needs to do more to secure and safeguard the lives of its citizens. It needs to be more pro-active in encouraging and creating a space where Colombian civil society activists can work freely and without fear, and this is what will build a lasting peace.”