This written evidence focuses on human rights defenders and draws examples of work undertaken by the FCO in relation to Colombia
Giving response to the Foreign Affair Committee’s inquiry into Human rights: “Freedom of religion and belief, and human rights defenders”, ABColombia presented a report addressing the situation of Human Rights Defenders in Colombia. Since Colombia has the highest number of documented killings of Human Rights Defenders (HRDs) in the world, ABColombia considers that this evidence is pertinent to the Foreign Affair Committee call.
The evidence presented to the Foreign Affair Committee’s inquiry illustrates where and how the FCO has effectively prioritised the situation of HRDs and, where ABColombia members consider improvements could be made.
Two aspects of special concern mentioned in the report by ABColombia are: the increased number of HRDs killed, their role in the defense of environmental rights, and the high level of impunity.
One of the areas ABColombia’s evidence illustrates is that improvements could be made in terms of greater consistency across UK government departments. Whilst UK Embassies have prioritised human rights and HRDs in Colombia, these issues that are noticeable by their absence in recent joint agreements signed between the UK and Colombia. Equally, there been missed opportunities by the UK to issue joint statements with Colombia on human rights.
HRD have a substantial role in addressing the power imbalances between communities and companies, and citizens and the state, their security should therefore be a high priority for the UK and Colombian governments. The joint statements and partnership agreements when visiting Presidents are in the UK are critical opportunities to indicate concerns, and to generate a transformative agenda by laying out the commitments of each country to working together to improve human rights and the situation of HRDs.
On the other hand, the report highlighted the importance of the UK government in contributing technical assistance. The participation of the UK at the UN Security Council (UNSC) as pen holder for UNSC Verification Mission to Colombia, has also made an important contribution to peace building in Colombia and to the support and protection of HRDs.
Finally, ABColombia made a recommendation to the the Foreign Affairs Committee to include in the UK Human Rights Defender Guidelines consistency across all departments in terms of human rights, and in particular the security and protection of HRDs. In this way, opportunities for future joint statements between the UK and Colombian governments should include references to human rights and human rights defenders.