Parliamentary meeting in H of C on Arms Trade, Human rights and Colombia
in response to FCO support of
Date: Monday 19th June, 11.00 am
Venue: House of Commons, Room W1
On Monday the 19th of June, the Foreign Office is hosting a meeting to prepare for a summit in Madrid in early July at which Foreign Ministers from throughout Europe will discuss contributing funds to
Plan Colombia. Colombian President Andres Pastrana devised
Plan Colombia with the aid of US advisers. One of its central planks is a massive injection of funds and training into the Colombian military. Officials from all E.U. countries will attend the meeting in London, along with Switzerland, Norway, Canada, Japan, the U.S., the Inter-American Development Bank and the World Bank.
Mark Bromley of Campaign Against Arms Trade said;
There are a lot of questions which need to be asked about UK’s involvement in
Plan Colombia. Any assistance given may well be used to strengthen the Colombian military, whose human rights record remains one of the worst in the Western Hemisphere.
We also want to know why Britain is continuing to export arms to Colombia, including £500,000 worth of small arms in the last three years, and even train the Colombian army. In doing so the British government makes a mockery of its supposed
ethical foreign policy.
Paramilitary groups, acting with the support of the Colombian military, are responsible for around 80% of all human rights abuses in Colombia. They have killed thousands of peasants, human rights activists and trade unionists as part of their
dirty war against guerrilla insurgents, and have forced over one and a half million people from their homes. Over the last ten years over 35,000 civilians have died in Colombia’s ongoing civil war between Guerrilla insurgents and the Government.
A recent Human Rights Watch report links half of Colombia’s eighteen brigade level units to paramilitary activity. The military itself has also been directly involved in gross human rights abuses. According to the National Human Rights Ombudsman, the Colombian army was responsible for five massacres of civilians during the first five months of 1999.
Despite this overwhelming evidence of the Colombian military’s support and even participation in paramilitary activity, the Foreign Secretary, Robin Cook, recently stated that he;
welcomed the steps that have been taken under President Pastrana’s government to make sure that the police and the army are there to uphold human rights, not to break human rights, and that there is no culture of impunity anywhere within Colombia.
The meeting is organised by the Colombian Refugee Association. CAAT will be speaking on UK’s sales of weaponry to Colombia and its training of their military. There will also be talks on
Plan Colombia, the human rights situation in Colombia and the plight of Colombian asylum seekers in Britain today. A member of the U’wa tribe will also be speaking about his peoples’ struggle against Occidental Petroleum and the destructive impact of oil mining on their traditional lands.
Contact Rachel Harford on 020 7281 0297 (CAAT office)