It was a very great honour to meet Yessika Hoyos Morales of the Corporacion Colectivo de Abogados for lunch today. Yessika is a deeply inspiring character and has given me the energy to pressure the government into taking a tougher line with Colombia, particularly within EU negotiations on a possible free trade agreement with the country.
I shall be asking questions of the Foreign Office about the extra-judicial killings of dozens of trades unionists in Colombia, many of which are linked to the Colombian army.
The UN High Commissioner for Human rights, Dr Navi Pillay, said last year that the Colombian army stands accused of a “crime against humanity” due to the “systematic and widespread” nature of the murders.
Other countries have expressed deep concern about the free trade deal. Many think that the deal will legitimise the regime in Colombia. Norwegian Finance Minister, Kristin Halvorsen has said “We are not satisfied with the way human right and fundamental labour rights are dealt with in this [free trade] agreement”.
Hilary Clinton recently told Congressional leaders that “continued violence and impunity in Colombia directed at labour and other civic leaders makes labor protection impossible to guarantee in Colombia today. Colombia must improve its efforts . The proposed US-Colombia agreement is therefore not currently on the legislative agenda in Washington”
I would like to see a similar unequivocal statement from the Foreign Office.