International Observation Mission releases its final report on the right to social protest in Colombia

Published by Brent Patterson on

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Photo: Image from the final report of the International Observation Mission.

On October 7, the SOS Mission Colombia media conference highlighted the summer’s International Observation Mission and released its final report.

The International Observation Mission for the Guarantees of Social Protest and Against Impunity in Colombia was comprised of 41 commissioners.

The commissioners included Peace Brigades International-Canada Board member Heather Neun and Bernadette Perrón and Nathan Brullemans de Brouwer, members of the Quebec-based Projet Accompagnement Solidarité Colombie (PASC).

The commissioners from 13 different countries arrived in Colombia on July 3 and released this 32-page preliminary report on July 12.

Now the 84-page final report can be read here. Its 50 recommendations can be found on pages 70 to 76 of the report.

Notably, the recommendations to the International Community include:

4.1. The European Union is required to suspend the sale of military weapons and riot control equipment under criterion 2 of the EU Code of Conduct on arms export. To the United States, and to any country that provides military weapons or riot gear, you are required to suspend sales commercial or donations of such weapons to ESMAD.

4.3. Promote the activation of suspensive clauses in case of violation of the rights of the different free trade and investment agreements, signed by Colombia.

On recommendation 4.1, PBI-Canada notes that Canada exported $460,338.87 of military goods to Colombia in 2020. The bulk of those exports were in category 2-6 which refers to “Ground vehicles and components”. This may be related to the armoured vehicles that Canada has previously exported to both the National Police and the Army.

This past June, Bloc Québécois Member of Parliament Simon-Pierre Savard-Tremblay stated: “We want the Minister for Foreign Affairs to seriously reassess the export licences for military equipment to Colombia.”

Savard-Tremblay highlighted: “As long as there is reasonable doubt that military equipment exported to Colombia is being used against the civilian population in human rights violations, licences should be suspended.”

In May, the New Democratic Party (NDP) also stated with respect to Colombia: “The Liberal government needs to do a lot more to show that they are applying the arms export risk assessment criteria rigorously, to ensure that Canadian arms are not being sold to countries where there are concerns about human rights violations.”

NDP MP Heather McPherson has commented: “The violence and repressive tactics used by the Colombian police and military is shocking and unprecedented. The right to peaceful protest is important for any society.”

As for recommendation 4.3, it is not clear to us at this point if there is a “suspensive clause” in the Canada-Colombia Free Trade Agreement. We do note, however, that Article 2305 states: “This Agreement shall remain in force unless terminated by either Party on six months’ written notice to the other Party.”

NDP MP Alexandre Boulerice has noted: “As a trading partner, [Canada] could put conditions on the Free Trade Agreement if human rights are not respected, including imposing trade sanctions.”

It is our intention to follow up with these Members of Parliament, along with other MPs, officials and organizations, to move forward on these recommendations.

Photo: On July 17, 2021, a Canadian-made INKAS armoured vehicle sold to the Colombian National Police was used to detain delegations heading to the National People’s Assembly in Cali, Valle del Cauca in the context of the National Strike.

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