• Human rights in Colombia

    Human rights defenders continue to face death threats and violence in Colombia, and I know that this has been highlighted in a number of reports. There was a worrying increase in attacks against human rights defenders over 2016, and I was shocked to learn that 80 were murdered over the course of last year alone. Disturbingly, the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) has already received reports of at least ten murders so far this year where the victims appear to have been targeted for their role as human rights defenders, or because they were members of unions or political groups. These issues have been raised directly with the Government in Parliament on several occasions over recent months, and I know that the Prime Minister also raised this matter with the President of Colombia. For more than five decades the people of Colombia have endured violent armed conflict, resulting in the deaths of more than 260,000 people, many of whom were civilians. As you will know, a peace agreement between the Colombian Government and the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) was reached at the end of last year and I welcome this significant progress. I believe it is crucial that we continue to urge others to respect the rule of law and the freedoms and rights that every human being is entitled to. I hope the UK Government will therefore make urgent representations to the Colombian Government to ensure that the proliferation of paramilitaries and private armies is countered, and that those responsible for attacks are brought to justice.