The workers and trade unionists of Colombia had little to celebrate on September 9, national Human Rights Day, as the toll of murdered trade unionists continues to rise against a background of widening impunity for those who kill. In a macabre run-up to September 9, newly elected president Álvaro Uribe’s Interior Minister declared that the Ministry’s Office for Human Rights “should not exist.”
In the first half of 2002, 95 trade unionists were assassinated, as against 77 for the same period in 2001. On August 15 alone, four trade unionists were murdered, including the Vice President of the health workers’ union, who was tortured before she was executed. On August 31 it was the turn of regional CUT official Jesus Munera.
The IUF has condemned these savage murders and called on the government of Colombia to put an end to the impunity which protects the assassins. Below, the text of our recent letter to president Uribe.
To: President Álvaro Uribe of Colombia
Concerns: assassination of trade union official ADOLFO DE JESUS
Dear Mr. President
The IUF, an international trade union federation representing over 12 million workers around the world, has received the tragic news of the assassination on August 31 of another Colombian trade unionist, regional CUT official Adolfo de Jesus Munera Lopez. His murder brings to some 100 the number of trade union members murdered so far this year.
Violence against Colombia’s trade unionists continues to escalate, against a background of continued impunity for the murderers. The grim toll of murdered trade union members and officers stands some 25 percent higher this year than for the similar period in 2001. Trade unionists, including members of the IUF, have repeatedly demanded protection from the state from the forces that menace them. To date, there has been no response, and the death toll continues to climb.
There must be an end to culture of impunity in Colombia. It is intolerable that thousands of women and men have been murdered for simply seeking to exercise the internationally guaranteed right to freedom of association. And it is equally unacceptable to the rest of the world that there should be no serious police investigations into these murders and no serious attempt by the judicial system to bring the perpetrators to justice.
We therefore call on your government to provide all the necessary security measures required for the protection of the lives and safety of Colombian trade unionists; to launch an open and transparent investigation into this latest assassination, and into the many hundreds of similar murders which remain to be investigated and prosecuted; and to take swift measures to bring the perpetrators to justice.