Fórsa’s general secretary Kevin Callinan and deputy general secretary Eoin Ronayne have written to foreign affairs minister Simon Coveney to express concern at the extreme level of State violence currently taking place in Colombia.
They called on the Government to make every effort to protect human rights and end the bloodshed. Their letter also urges the minister to publicly denounce the violence and call for those responsible to be held to account.
The letter welcomes the initiations of dialogue between the National Strike Committee and the Colombian President and asks that representations be made to ensure these negotiations are meaningful and engage with all sectors involved in recent protests.
“We also call for diplomatic efforts to encourage urgent police reform, specifically for the police force to be moved from the Ministry of Defence to become a civilian force suitable for a context of the ongoing peace process,” it states.
Kevin and Eoin welcomed a recent meeting with the department, and said they looked forward to further correspondence with it on the points they raised in the letter.
Union representatives are also due to meet the Colombian ambassador to Ireland next week to discuss their concerns.
Trade unions in Colombia led national strikes in April. Since the latest round of trade union-led national strike mobilisations were initiated, Colombian state forces have committed human rights abuses on a massive scale.
The United Nations and the European Union, as well as governments of many countries have spoken out against the police violence.
Reports from national human rights organisations reveal state forces have killed at least 24 people – 11 at the hands of the police – and left numerous others with permanent injuries. A concerning number of people reported missing.
There are also several reports of sexual violence committed against detainees, while human rights observers and journalists have also been attacked.
While initial protests were organised by the National Strike Committee formed of trade unions and social organisations, significant elements of the protests have been maintained by people not formally represented in this grouping. Young people from poor urban neighbourhoods have been particularly involved.
The National Strike Committee has begun talks with the Colombian government emphasising the need for such groups to be included in talks. On 10 May, the National Strike Committee and the government met to discuss demands including a withdrawal of regressive social reforms, an end to police violence and the initiation of meaningful negotiations. On 16th May, there was a second session with a single demand for the end of police violence before negotiations could begin.
The Justice for Colombia campaign calls for Governments and organisations to unequivocally and publicly condemn the violence of the Colombian police and the government’s attempted smears undermining the right to protest, and calls for police reform.
Read the letter to Minister Coveney HERE.
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