The signing organisations commend the important contributions made by the British government and the European Union (EU) to the protection of human rights defenders worldwide and particularly in Colombia. The adoption of the EU guidelines on Human Rights Defenders in 2004 is a clear illustration of the general interest and concern of the EU in this respect. The Council conclusions on Colombia have represented another important expression of concern on the situation of human rights defenders in this country.
This effort has been complemented recently by specific declarations by the Presidency of the EU (19 May 2008 on defenders in general and 19 December 2008 on the case of Colombian defender Edwin Legarda). The recent establishment of a formal dialogue on human rights with Colombia is a positive initiative that should enable the EU to act on a more institutionalised and common base in Colombia. It should be used to benefit human rights defenders, by acting as a channel to raise specific concerns and to ask for concrete responses to their situation.
We welcome both recent actions taken by the British Embassy in Colombia and public statements made by British government officials regarding the importance of human rights defenders and their work in Colombia. However more should be done, since human rights defenders in Colombia still face a critical situation. Those who defend human rights and the rule of law are at risk of systematic stigmatisation, threats, sexual violence, unfounded criminal proceedings, violent attacks and killings carried out by all actors in the Colombian conflict. In most cases, they do not have sufficient safety guarantees and work in a climate of fear.
Therefore, we address the following recommendations to the British government, the British Parliament and the EU authorities.
1. To Call on the Colombian authorities to adopt the recommendations of the “Campaign for the Right to Defend Human Rights in Colombia”, to respect its international commitments and in particular to promptly implement the recommendations and commitments on human rights defenders made during the Universal Periodic Review (December 2008).
2. Insist publically that the Colombian government stop its stigmatisation campaign against human rights defenders
3. That the British government through the British Embassy in Colombia uses its influence and expertise to advance a full implementation of the EU guidelines on human rights defenders, a commitment adopted by all member states in 2004, and revised in 2008. With the revision of the EU Guidelines in 2008 we would recommend that:
4. Specific recommendations to Members of Parliament
5. Use the formal dialogue on human rights between the EU and Colombia, to give further support to human rights defenders, by:
6. Put the human rights defenders’ situation at the top of the agenda of EU aid and trade relations with Colombia