Colombian men "may face death" on return - Amnesty

 

TWO COLOMBIANS who have been in Ireland since last Monday may face death when they return to Colombia from Dublin today, according to Amnesty International.

This follows the killing last week of a colleague in the National Association of Peasant Farm Workers and two of his brothers. Two of the dead were killed in front of their children by a paramilitary group, bringing to 30 the number who have been killed by paramilitaries or have "disappeared" as a result of their human rights campaign.

The two who return to Colombia today, Mr Belen Torres and Mr Raul Ramos, met the Tanaiste, Mr Spring, yesterday.

He expressed "profound concern" over their situation.

They have been in Ireland as guests of Amnesty International and Tr6caire to campaign for the human rights of peasant farmers being forcibly displaced from a ranch in Colombia, Bellacruz.

According to Amnesty, more than 280 farming families were expelled from the ranch in March by paramilitaries, with the complicity of the Colombian armed forces, operating on behalf of a family which claims the land.

"The farmers' homes were burned, people were tortured and death threats were issued to anyone attempting to return," according to Amnesty. "Despite government commitments, no action has been taken to curb the activities of the paramilitaries."

Mr Spring yesterday wrote to the Colombian ambassador in London, saying: "Respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms form the cornerstone of Irish foreign policy. You will appreciate therefore my concern, that of other public representatives and human rights bodies when we learn of the situation of the peasant farmers in the region."

He expressed horror at the three killings which he said had taken place just one day after Mr Torres and Mr Ramos had held detailed discussions with officials of the Department of Foreign Affairs.