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Question for Foreign and Commonwealth Office

UIN HL417, tabled on 6 June 2016

To ask Her Majesty’s Government what representations they have made to the government of Colombia about the dangers faced by defenders of human rights and leaders of land restitution claims, and the case for enhancing their protection.

Answered on

16 June 2016

We are concerned by the increase in violence towards human rights defenders (HRDs) in Colombia. Reports from the non-governmental organisation (NGO) Somos Defensores indicate that 63 HRDs were killed in 2015, a 13 per cent increase from 2014. The Minister of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs, my Rt Hon. Friend the Member for East Devon (Mr Swire), raised this issue during his meeting with President Santos on 12 May. During his visit to Colombia in April, the Foreign Secretary, my Rt Hon. Friend the Member for Runnymede and Weybridge (Mr Hammond), also raised human rights concerns with the Colombian Deputy Foreign Minister, Patti Londoño-Jaramillo.

Ensuring protection and support for HRDs, including leaders of land restitution claims, is a priority area for our Embassy in Bogotá. As well as monitoring specific cases, the UK raises our concerns with the Colombian government at every possible opportunity. Our Ambassador to Colombia recently joined an international community initiative called “Ambassadors with Defenders” that aims to raise awareness of the situation of HRDs and follow up on specific cases. Earlier this year, the Ambassador accompanied the Colombian Minister of Interior to a regional human rights roundtable, where the role of local authorities in taking effective action on HRD cases was discussed. The UK was the only member of the international community invited to this event.

With regards to increased protection, on 26 April, President Santos announced the creation of a high level group in charge of investigating threats and killings against HRDs. He invited human rights organisations to appoint five representatives to participate in this group. The Attorney General’s Office has prioritised the investigations of these cases.