The war in Colombia began in 1948 and widespread violations of human rights have been a permanent feature of it. The UK plays a role in the conflict by providing assistance to the Colombian military. Very little detail about this assistance has been made public, though the UK is reportedly the second largest donor of military aid to Colombia after the US.
Support Human Rights - End British Military Aid to Colombia
UK military aid to Colombia is concerning for several reasons:
• The Colombian military has a very poor human rights record which has deteriorated in recent years.
• Abuses attributed to soldiers include regular murders of trade unionists and other civilians;
• There is strong evidence to suggest that elements of the Colombian military continue to collaborate with rightwing paramilitary death squads and drug traffickers;
• Impunity remains the norm in cases of human rights abuses, demonstrating a lack of will on the part of the Colombian regime to punish perpetrators;
• There are no conditions attached to UK military assistance – so even as the abuses get worse the aid continues to flow.
Whilst details of UK military assistance are for the most part secret, the Government has argued that some of it is aimed at improving the human rights record of the military and combating drugs trafficking. As Justice for Colombia’s new report ‘UK Military Aid to Colombia, Alternatives to a Flawed Policy’ shows, there is little evidence to suggest that the aid is having the desired outcome in either area.
The UK Government claims that it would review its assistance to the Colombian military should evidence come to light of human rights abuses being perpetrated by those benefiting. Yet on repeated occasions evidence has been presented, and UK policy has not altered. Indeed, the only military unit that the Government has publicly confirmed receives UK assistance, the High Mountain Battalions, has a well documented history of involvement in the torture and murder of trade unionists among other abuses.
There is widespread opposition to continuing to provide military assistance, including from more than half of the Government’s own MPs and the Parliamentary Foreign Affairs Select Committee. In July 2008 the Committee described the assistance as “inappropriate” and stated that as the human rights situation in Colombia “shows little sign of improvement” the UK Government “should request the Colombian military to demonstrate measurable and verifiable human rights improvements in exchange for future assistance”.
The UK runs the risk of becoming isolated internationally on Colombia. US Democrat leaders, including Barack Obama, are increasingly raising concerns over human rights in Colombia and Democrats in the US Congress have significantly reduced US military aid as a result.
In light of all of this, we the undersigned,
• Believe that a Department for International Development (DFID)/Foreign & Commonwealth Office (FCO) partnership should replace the current Ministry of Defence (MOD)/Foreign & Commonwealth Office alliance as those responsible for British engagement in Colombia, with a corresponding shift in emphasis towards projects that will benefit the poorest.
• Call on Britain to play, as some of our EU partners are already doing, a more proactive role in trying to promote a peace process in Colombia as the only realistic solution to the conflict.
• Urge that more pressure be applied on the Colombian regime to respect fundamental human and trade union rights.
The Support Human Rights - End British Military Aid to Colombia petition to United Kingdom (UK) Government was written by Justice for Colombia and is in the category Human Rights at GoPetition.