Global Affairs Canada releases its annual report on human rights and the Canada-Colombia free trade agreement
“They are killing us”
The latest Annual Report for the Canada-Colombia Free Trade Agreement was posted late on Friday June 25. It can be read in full here.
The Annual Report states: “The report found no human rights impacts which could be directly associated with Canada’s 2020 tariff reductions.”
177 human rights defenders killed in Colombia in 2020
The Annual Report states: “Although efforts have been made by Colombian authorities to continue implementing a series of early warning and protection measures for HRDs under threat, as well as making progress on the development of a policy framework at the national level, civil society actors remain concerned about a lack of resources and effective protection measures, as well as inadequate funding.”
Front Line Defenders has documented that 177 human rights defenders were killed in Colombia in 2020. Among the reasons it notes: “HRDs have been left exposed by the failure of the Colombian government to implement crucial elements of the peace agreement.” It also highlights that 2020 saw a rise in violence in Colombia against “those opposing the aggressive extraction of natural resources.”
86 people killed by Colombian police in 2020
The Global Affairs Canada Annual Report also notes: “The years 2019 and 2020 also saw accusations against the ESMAD (anti-riot police) of excessive and unwarranted use of force by law enforcement.”
It continues: “In October 2020, a filmed act of police brutality that supposedly led to the death of a citizen rekindled the debate over the disproportionate use of force by anti-riot police and led to the release of a protocol by the government which establishes guidelines for action by police within the framework of peaceful demonstrations.”
That “filmed act of police brutality” (that actually happened on September 9, 2020) refers to the death of Javier Ordóñez who was pinned down by officers and repeatedly shocked with a Taser for over two minutes while he begged: “Please, no more.” It evoked comparisons to the killing of George Floyd in Minnesota.
The BBC reported: “Thirteen people were killed and hundreds were injured by police officers during the ensuing unrest in Bogotá, the capital, and nearby city Soacha, while dozens of police precincts were vandalized and torched. Two officers were placed under investigation for their role in Ordóñez’s death at the time, but no one has been convicted.”
The Colombian NGO Temblores has also reported that police officers in Colombia killed 86 people in 2020 and that there were 7,992 cases of assault and 30 cases of sexual violence, with migrant communities and Afro-Colombians often the victims.
Sexual violence and light armoured vehicle exports to Colombia
The Annual Report notes: “No export permits for controlled military and strategic items will be issued to Colombia if there is a substantial risk that the item could be used to commit or facilitate a serious human rights violation or serious acts of gender-based violence or serious acts of violence against women and children.”
On June 1, Global Affairs reported that Canada had exported $460,338.87 in military goods to Colombia in 2020. This follows the sale of four Canadian-manufactured armoured vehicles in 2014 and 26 more in 2015 to the Colombian police.
There are numerous videos – including from Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch – that raise a context of concern given how similar armoured vehicles are being used by the Colombian police against protests. Those videos can be seen here.
On May 25, the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR-CIDH) expressed its alarm about the “87 acts of sexual violence allegedly committed by law enforcement agents against women demonstrators.”
Canada’s message on human rights
The Canada-Colombia Free Trade Agreement was signed on November 21, 2008.
The following year, Yessika Hoyos Morales of the PBI-Colombia accompanied José Alvear Restrepo Lawyers’ Collective (CCAJAR) commented: “If Canada ratifies the free trade agreement it will give a message to Colombians and to the whole international community that Canada supports a government that violates human rights.”
The deal was ratified and came into force on August 15, 2011.