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Union leaders in Colombia face threats and violence

29 August, 2018Colombia is one of the ten most dangerous countries in the world for workers and trade union leaders, where 19 trade union members have been murdered so far this year. IndustriALL Global Union and other federations have expressed their concerns to Colombia's president, Iván Duque.

19 trade union members have been murdered in Colombia so far in 2018, according to the ITUC Global Rights Index, which ranks Colombia among the ten worst countries for workers.

Another report, "Anti-union violence, impunity and protection of trade unionists in Colombia", published by NGO Escuela Nacional Sindical, states that there were 2,220 violations against the life, freedom and integrity of Colombian trade unionists, including 143 murders, between 2012 and 2017.

Social leaders are also targets of violence. The Ombudsman's Office of Colombia has reported that 343 social leaders and human rights activists were murdered across the country between 1 January 2016 and 22 August 2018.

The increase in threats and violence against both social and trade union leaders has prompted representatives of the international trade union federations in Latin America to write to President Duque to express their concern.

They denounce the fact that, although the peace process began two years ago, it has not led to greater stability at a national level, in economic terms or with regard to human rights and social justice.

The letter says:

It goes without saying that a country that cannot safeguard the lives of its citizens when they themselves are fighting for their human rights cannot possibly achieve social justice.

Calling for measures to improve security and thus better protection of Colombia's citizens, they also said that judicial procedures need to be reviewed in order to end impunity for these crimes.

The federations joined the recent statement made by the United Nations Organization in Colombia condemning the killings of human rights activists and social leaders, and urging the Colombian government to strengthen prevention, protection and investigation measures to guarantee the right to life and integrity of all Colombians.

The unions reaffirmed their commitment to fostering an honest, ongoing and constructive dialogue with the government. Their aim is to create a programme that will promote decent working conditions, establish inspection mechanisms to bring an end to informal working arrangements and lay the groundwork for collective bargaining by sector.