22/10/14 Senator Daly speaks to Joint Oireachtas Committee on Foreign Affairs and Trade RE: Situation in Colombia: ICTU

Senator Daly: I thank the witnesses for giving views on the trade agreement and the situation in Colombia. I have been to Colombia where I met the mothers of the victims of the false positives. I accompanied a solicitor around Colombia during which for the first time in ten years he did not have 24-hour armed protection because he believed travelling with members of the Joint Committee on Foreign Affairs, as it was at the time, meant that he was bulletproof. He proved to be correct, but I found it a very interesting test.

I also met two sisters whose father had been chain-sawed to death because he stood up against the paramilitaries and the landowners. As it was described to us, being chain-sawed to death was done in such a way to keep the victim alive as long as possible in order to ensure that it engendered terror in the community. A priest suffered that fate because he was galvanising the farmers and the workers against the landlords. He was kept alive for days in that manner.

The establishment of a trade agreement affords an opportunity to put a working human rights clause in it. We have seen human rights clauses in the Euro-Med agreement between the European Union and Israel. If there was not a human rights violation in the recent attacks in Gaza, one would probably not find it anywhere. However, Europe in its wisdom could not find anything in its clause to suspend the trade agreement. That is an example of a dysfunctional trade agreement with a human rights clause in it.

Ireland is one of the countries in Europe that wants a human rights clause – others simply do not want it. While Ireland is pushing for one, there is no point in having a clause that does not work. It needs trigger mechanisms and the ability of organisations, trade unions and NGOs throughout Europe and in Colombia to follow a pathway in the event of a human rights violation whereby it would be reported to an independent body – either a European Union body or an international body – to make a determination. If it determines that there were human rights violations by the Colombian Government the trade agreement would be suspended for three months. The next violation would lead to a six-month suspension. That is the wording we would request of the witnesses because I fear it will proceed as it is and will be as dysfunctional as other trade agreements meaning there would be no consequences for governments that perpetrate human rights abuses against their own people and against others.

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