ITUC OnLine – April 18, 2007(1)

Brussels, 18 April 2007 (ITUC OnLine): In an explosive new report submitted to the International Labour Organisation (ILO), the ITUC has presented direct evidence of collusion between Colombia’s notorious DAS Security Agency and paramilitary death squads in the murder of at least seven trade unionists since the early 1990’s. The DAS (or “Administrative Security Department”) is under the direct authority of Colombian President Alvaro Uribe Velez, and has recently been the focus of similar revelations which have rocked Colombia’s political establishment.

An investigation by the Attorney General’s Office (“Fiscalia”) has revealed that the DAS apparatus has long been pursuing a policy of secret monitoring and observation of legitimate trade union activities and in particular of union leaders. The new evidence includes the provision to the investigation of a list of 22 union leaders and one union advisor, who had been specifically identified by detectives from the National Intelligence Directorate. Seven of those on the list were killed following their identification by the Directorate.

The report to the ILO forms part of a complaint against the Colombian Government over persistent and severe violations of trade union rights.

In a speech to an international conference on human rights in Colombia held at the European Parliament on 18 April, ITUC Human and Trade Union Rights Director Janek Kuczkiewicz called on the international community to step up pressure on the Colombian authorities to properly investigate the more than 2,000 killings of trade unionists, over one-fifth of whom were trade union leaders, between 1991 and 2006.

“Year after year, Colombia has been top of the list of countries where trade unionists are killed simply for their legitimate activities in support of workers’ rights, leading to the destruction of thousands of lives and devastation of families throughout the country”, said Kuczkiewicz. “Little wonder that the government and the judicial authorities have failed to investigate these terrible crimes and bring the perpetrators to justice. People in government throughout these years share the culpability. Today the government has the chance to ensure that justice is finally done, and that the fundamental rights of working men and women will in future be respected in full”, he added.

In light of the situation, the ITUC has backed calls in the European Parliament questioning the continuation of trade privileges enjoyed by Colombia under the European Union’s Generalised System of Preferences. These privileges are conditional on respect of fundamental trade union rights set out in ILO Conventions.