USLEAP Releases Third-Annual Colombian Impunity Report

The Colombian justice system is falling further behind in the fight against impunity for anti-union violence, according to USLEAP’s third-annual report released on December 22 that examines convictions of murderers of trade unionists.

In an analysis of 77 rulings issued in 2009 by Colombian courts, the report found that the Colombian government achieved convictions in cases of 59 murdered trade unionists, of which 41 represented new convictions (18 were for victims for whom some convictions had been achieved in previous years). This means that Colombia is falling further behind in combating impunity; the 41 new convictions in 2009 for murders of trade unionists were outpaced by the 47 trade unionists killed in the same year. Even if there were no more deaths starting today, at its current pace it would take the Colombian justice system 30 years to even partially address the backlog of nearly 3,000 murder cases.

The report also found that in only three cases were both the intellectual and material authors convicted, that virtually no progress has been made in addressing impunity with respect to other forms of violence (e.g. kidnapping, torture, sexual violence, disappearance), and that convictions are especially rare for murders committed in recent years, which might explain why convictions achieved to date have so far had no apparent deterrent effect on the level of violence against trade unionists. In 2010, Colombia is expected to lead the world again in the number of murders of trade unionists.

USLEAP initiated its annual investigation of violence against trade unionists and impunity in 2007 when the Colombian government established specialized courts to address crimes of violence against trade unionists. Now in their third year, the courts have yet to make any effective progress on impunity. Colombian human rights and labor groups have called upon the Colombian government to take a comprehensive and systematic approach to investigating and prosecuting violence against trade unionists rather than treating cases individually and unrelated.

USLEAP also released a new fact sheet on Murder and Impunity of Colombian Trade Unionists, talking points on Opposing a U.S.-Colombia FTA, and talking points on labor rights abuses during the tenure of ex-President Álvaro Uribe (2002-2010).

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