The Maple: Documents Raise More Concerns Than Answers About Armoured Vehicle Sales to Colombia
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The Maple reports:
A Canadian human rights organization says documents obtained from Global Affairs Canada (GAC) raise more concerns and questions than answers about whether or not the Colombian national police are using Canadian-made armoured vehicles to violate human rights.
Peace Brigades International – Canada (PBI) obtained GAC emails regarding the export of Canadian-built INKAS armoured vehicles to the Colombian national police through access to information (ATIP) legislation.
In an interview with The Maple, PBI executive director Brent Patterson said the emails confirm that in response to concerns from human rights groups like PBI about Canadian armoured vehicles being used by Colombia’s right-wing president Iván Duque to suppress a national strike in 2019, the Canadian embassy was spurred into action.
However, Patterson is concerned that the embassy simply took the police at their word that Canadian-made INKAS vehicles were not being used to suppress protests without any follow up investigation.
“From what we can ascertain in these emails, that’s kind of the end of the story,” said Patterson. “There’s no independent verification; there’s no other process underway.”
Patterson also expressed concern about the fact that the emails appear to show that GAC only bothered to contact the Colombian national police in response to pressure from civil society.
“Unless civil society was asking the government about this concern, it doesn’t seem that they, in and of themselves, would have looked into the matter,” he explained.
In all, said Patterson, the documents highlight “the lack of transparency, the lack of real rigour, the lack of independent investigation, the lack of any real seriousness about looking into the potential human rights implications of the sale of armoured vehicles to Colombia, when there are real reasons to be concerned about how they’re being used.”
Besides the brutal suppression of strikes and protests by police, he explained, Colombian activists have repeatedly warned that when mines and other extraction projects are set up, they are typically accompanied by an increased militarization of the affected areas.
“Given the level of Canadian investment in mining and oil and gas operations in Colombia, coupled with the sale of armoured vehicles and other military goods, I think it at least sets up an equation for concern,” said Patterson.
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