Human Rights Watch and Colombia’s prosecutor general presented starkly contradicting figures regarding the investigation of those who murder union members.
According to a study conducted by the international NGO Human Rights Watch, Colombia has made “virtually no progress” in identifying and convicting the murderers of union leaders over the last four and a half years.
Of the 195 murders of union leaders since January 2007, the NGO found that Colombia has obtained convictions in only six of the cases. It also claimed that suspects have not been identified in about 90% of the investigations.
“A major reason for this ongoing violence has been the chronic lack of accountability for cases of anti-union violence,” Human Rights Watch said in a letter sent Thursday to Colombian Prosecutor General Viviane Morales.
The NGO explained the “severe shortcomings” of the Prosecutor General’s Office as “a routine failure to adequately investigate the motive” in labor killings as well as to “bring to justice all responsible parties.”
The study also found that less than 10% of 2,886 murders of union leaders have resulted in convictions since 1986. It also claims that 74 convictions occurred through plea bargains of right-wing paramilitary death squad members through the Justice and Peace law, which gives reduced sentences of up to eight years for demobilized paramilitary members.
However, according to a report by the Prosecutor General’s Office obtained by W Radio, between 2000 and 2011, there have been 354 convictions in 230 unionist murder cases that occurred between 1987 and 2010.
According to the prosecutor general’s report, 228 sentences were the result of a plea bargain. In 36 cases, prosecutors closed the case without having found anyone responsible for the murder.
The White House has said Colombia has made significant progress in addressing anti-unionist violence.
It is pushing for congressional approval as early as this week of the Colombia agreement along with pacts with South Korea and Panama, something the Republicans endorse and that they say will increase U.S. exports by $13 billion a year and support tens of thousands of jobs.