Murphy visits Colombia to assist peace process
Sinn Féin MP Conor Murphy has said lessons from the peace process here in Northern Ireland could help end conflict in Colombia.
The Newry and Armagh MP said, “The visit, organised by the Justice for Colombia group, will see us meeting with trade unionists, human rights activists, victims of the conflict, prisoners and representatives of the government.
“As well as visiting Bogota, we will travel to rural and coastal areas to hear testimony from peasant activists and fishing communities on ongoing human rights abuses.
“On arrival we were greeted by Dr Carlos Lozano, spokesperson for the Patriot March movement and editor of Voz newspaper. He has to have armed bodyguards everywhere he goes as his predecessor was murdered by state forces.
“We also met with human rights lawyers who briefed us on the ongoing murder of trade union activists. Almost 3,000 have been killed since 1986, 28 in the last year.
“They also told us of plans by President Santos to allow military courts to deal with all accusations of violence and abuse by state forces and to counter what he claims is a ‘legal war’ by human rights lawyers on behalf of victims. This is despite the fact that the state has enjoyed a 98.5% impunity for all killings.”
Murphy said lessons learned in Ireland could also be used in Colombia. “In an interesting parallel with Ireland, the lawyers talked about attempts by the Colombian government to downplay its role in the conflict and the creation of a hierarchy of victims ahead of any agreement around a proposed truth commission.
“One note of optimism was our meeting with a young woman, Yessika Hoyos, a human rights lawyer who established the group, Hijos y Hijas (Sons and Daughters) which brings together children of murdered trade unionists and other civic society leaders.
“This is clear evidence that the struggle for peace and justice remains strong in Colombia. After our engagements in Colombia some of the delegation will travel to Havana to meet with FARC negotiators who are currently in peace talks with the Colombian government,” he added.
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