Galway seminar on human rights in Colombia

Colombia’s 40-year internal armed conflict has resulted in widespread violations of human rights and international humanitarian law.

According to Human Rights Watch, Colombia’s conflict has displaced millions of ordinary people, while guerrillas and paramilitaries attack human rights defenders, journalists, community leaders, trade unionists, indigenous and Afro-Colombian leaders, as well as paramilitaries’ victims seeking land restitution or justice.

Much of the violence is also directly linked to the civil authorities particularly the police and army.

The current Colombian government lead by Juan Manuel Santos is anxious to secure free trade agreements with the United States and the European Community. Human rights activists are engaged in a campaign to link these trade agreements with positive improvements in Colombia’s human rights record.

As a result the Galway Council of Trade Unions in association with Global Solidarity and the Justice for Colombia Solidarity Committee will hold a special presentation and discussion on Human Rights in Colombia on Thursday April 28 in Monroe’s Tavern, Dominick Street, at 7.30pm.

Jack O’Connor, General President of SIPTU and president of the Irish Congree of Trade Unions will give an account of his visit to Colombia in 2010 as part of a delegation of MEPs, trade unionists, and other social activists from Europe.

During his visit Mr O’Connor visited the Macarena mass grave. The grave is where innocent civilians, most of whom were young homeless men, were abducted and killed by army and right wing elements and then dressed in guerilla uniforms so as to be ‘identified’ as guerilla casualties.

Labour party president Michael D Higgins will also speak on his experiences in Colombia on a visit in November 2010 organised by Trocaire. Mr Higgins has a long history on human rights issues and raised concerns in the Dáil regarding the preferential trading agreement for Columbia being negotiated between the EU and Colombia.

The presentations will be followed by questions and discussion. The event is free and all are welcome to attend. The event will be followed by a fundraiser for the Galway People’s Resource Centre.

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