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Colombia peace talks: need for greater protection for civil society - Crowe

21 October, 2012 - by Seán Crowe TD

Sinn Féin spokesperson on Foreign Affairs, Trade and Diaspora, Seán Crowe TD, has called on the Irish Government to support and encourage the Colombian Government to provide greater protection for civil society and trade union leaders.

Crowe described Colombia as one of the most dangerous countries in the world to be a civil society activist and said that the Peace talks that have just begun between the FARC rebel group and the Colombian government will increase the danger and security threat against many civil and trade union leaders.

Speaking after raising the issue with the Minister for Foreign Affairs Eamon Gilmore in the Dáil this week, Deputy Crowe said:

“Colombia is at a crossroads at the moment. They are facing down a road that could lead to a successful peace process ending nearly five decades of conflict, or it could return to conflict and more violence.

“I hope Colombia takes the path of dialogue and an inclusive peace process.

“In order for a peace process in Colombia to be successful it must also include civil society.

“ Colombia is one of the most dangerous places to be a civil society activist. Assassinations are common place and those under threat receive little security protection from the authorities.

"Many from civil society and union leaders who are at risk have seen their fuel expenses cut by 50%. This severely reduces their ability to use their protective vehicles and makes them vulnerable to attacks.

“We are also seeing the amalgamation of civic society groups and individuals in Colombia, called the Patriotic March. This is a new and positive development for Colombia, that will hopefully encourage more civil participation and engagement. The Colombian Government needs to ensure that they are given the necessary security and space to develop and grow.

“No-one wants to see a return of the massacres of political activists which occurred after previous peace talks in the late 1980s.

“I am calling for the Minister for Foreign Affairs Eamon Gilmore to contact the Colombian Authorities and ask them to reverse their cuts as they undermine the security of activists who are now in more danger from those who oppose these talks.”

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