Blair and Colombia visit: Serious concerns must be raised
In an open letter yesterday to Mr Blair, Amnesty International outlined the need for the UK to be expressing its concern at the incoming president's proposals in dealing with Colombia's long-running conflict.
President-elect Uribe has proposed anti-terrorist legislation that would grant judicial police powers to the security forces. He has also suggested holding dialogues with paramilitary forces, overlooking existing links between these groups and Colombia's armed forces and the urgent necessity of dismantling such paramilitary groups.
Additionally, Dr Uribe's intention to create a million-strong civilian vigilante network risks seriously escalating the human rights crisis and drawing the civilian population further into the conflict - while ignoring Colombia's blighted history of paramilitarism.
Amnesty International UK Director Kate Allen said:
'We are urging Tony Blair to inform the incoming Colombian president that Britain wishes to help solve Colombia's dreadful human rights crisis but is fearful that new proposals may make matters worse.
We urge Mr Blair to advise Dr Uribe that proposals for a huge Colombian vigilante network and draconian anti-terrorism legislation risk exacerbating not solving Colombia's human rights crisis.'
In Colombia about 20 people a day are killed in political violence, a majority outside of actual combat. State agents and their paramilitary allies are responsible for approximately 84 per cent of non-combat killings and 'disappearances'. Guerrilla forces are responsible for deliberate arbitrary killings and for most cases of kidnapping and hostage taking, some 62 per cent of the approximately 3,000 reported cases in 2001. Over two million civilians have also been forcibly displaced since 1985.
A full copy of the letter to the Prime Minister is available online at: /news/oldindex.shtml
' Colombia: Local government officials in the line of fire (7/6/02 press release)
' Colombia: What kind of security can there be without full respect for human rights? (29/5/02 press release)
' Colombia: Human Rights and USA Military Aid to Colombia III (1/2/02 report)