oidhaco – Newsletter May – June 2014: Trade Unionist, Elections, Displacement

This issue includes a special focus on trade unionists in Colombia, the elections and the peace process, enforced displacement, criminalization of social protest, the United Nations Human Rights Council and what happened in Europe.

The issue contains the following themes:

– Trade unionists in Colombia
The situation of trade unionists in recent months has been of serious concern. A number of cases have been registered of threats, assaults, murders and judicial set-ups; facts which have been massively reported both nationally and internationally. According to the National Labor School (Escuela Nacional Sindical – ENS), by 19 May they had registered 7 killings of union activists and leaders killed and 6 attacks.

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– The elections and the peace process
On May 25, the first round of the Colombian presidential elections was marked by a high rate of abstention, at around 60%. At that time, Oscar Iván Zuluaga Escobar of the Democratic Centre Party gained the most votes with 29.26% and Juan Manuel Santos of the Social Party of National Unity took 25.68%. The second round on June 15 saw the re-election of President Juan Manuel Santos with 50.95% of votes against Oscar Zuluaga (45%).

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– 220,000 more people forcibly displaced in Colombia
According to the report of the Norwegian Refugee Council (NRC) and the Internal Displacement Monitoring Centre (IDMC), 63% of IDPs in the world are from five global conflict-affected countries: Syria, Colombia, Nigeria, Democratic Republic of Congo and Sudan. According to the latest report from the Consultancy for Human Rights and Displacement (Consultoría para los Derechos Humanos y el Desplazamiento – CODHES), in 2013 about 6 million people had been registered as internally displaced by war, violence and human rights violations in the Americas, including 5.7 million in Colombia since 1985. According to Codhes, the number of victims of forced displacement in Colombia in 2013 increased to at least 219,405 (confirming the annual average of 180,000 per year for the past five years), although the figure could be higher due to the lack of registration of many people. Between 1985 and 2013 Colombia registered 5,921,229 victims of displacement, which situates it as the country with the second highest number of forcibly displaced people in the world after Syria, far surpassing Congo, Sudan and Iraq.

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– Criminalization of social protest
The wave of social protests in 2013 has continued in 2014. Due to the lack of compliance by the national government with agreements reached in 2013 in order to bring to an end multiple strikes, the different sectors of the civilian population gathered in the Farming, Ethnic and Grassroots Agrarian Summit to express their discontent. From April 28 to May 10, marches were held in different parts of the country. Although the government’s response was swift and negotiations and agreements were achieved, State repression was strong with “harassment, stigmatization, arbitrary detention, photographic recording, obstructing the free movement of vehicles and delegations of protesters”.

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– United Nations Human Rights Council
The 26th session of the United Nations Human Rights Council (HRC) from June 10 to 27 ended the mandate of Navi Pillay, as High Commissioner for Human Rights. Jordanian Prince Zeid Ra’ad Zeid Al-Hussein will replace her in this position to defend human rights worldwide.

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– Colombia and Europe

The German MEP Jürgen Klute, from the United Left, visited Buenaventura, Cali, the Cerrejon coal mine in La Guajira, the city of Valledupar and Bogota where he also met with government representatives. “Human, social and trade union rights are still worth less in Colombia than large-scale interests”. “Colombian civil society is well organized but its voice is systematically ignored in favour of power. During my discussions with trade unions, NGOs, aid agencies, opposition parties and institutions strengthening peace I have perceived a very different view of Colombia than that transmitted to me by the authorities and companies”.

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1407 Newsletter May – June