NASUWT continues to campaign for justice for Colombian trade unionists
Call to release Miguel Ángel Beltrán
The NASUWT is calling on the government and judicial authorities of the Republic of Colombia to urgently review the judicial case against Dr Miguel Ángel Beltrán, a former Professor at the National University of Colombia, and to authorise his immediate release.
Dr Beltrán was arrested on charges of rebellion and conspiracy in July 2015 and unjustly sentenced to 8 years’ imprisonment in the high security prison ‘La Picota’ in Bogota. He was recently on a hunger strike to demand a fair review of his case, and improvement of the detention conditions for himself and for all prisoners.
Dr Beltrán is a member of the higher education union ASPU, one of Education International’s member organisations in Colombia. He is an outspoken critic of the Colombian government and has dedicated much of his research to conflict and turmoil within the country. Colombia has one of the highest rates of violence against teachers and trade unionists.
He was first arrested in May 2009 on similar charges. Despite being cleared of all charges in 2011, he was removed from his position at the National University of Colombia and still suffers a politically-motivated ban preventing him from serving at any public universities in Colombia.
In partnership with Education International, the NASUWT has made a formal request for his case to be reviewed, for his release and for the restitution of his civil and academic rights. The Union has also written to the Colombian ambassador in the UK and the Foreign Secretary to highlight Dr Beltrán’s case and to call for his release.
Omar Combita freed from jail
The NASUWT has welcomed the release of Omar Alfonso Combita from prison in Colombia, which was described by NASUWT General Secretary Chris Keates as "wonderful news".
Ms Keates said: “The report of Omar’s release is truly wonderful news.
“His release from incarceration will be a huge relief for his family, friends, colleagues and the wider trade union movement, in Colombia and across the world.
“Omar’s ‘crimes’ - on trumped-up charges of rebellion – were nothing more than taking part in peaceful and democratic protests against government education reforms.
“His arrest was actually part of a shameful wider attempt by the authorities to silence opposition by the trade unions and human rights organisations, which is continuing.
“Omar has been denied medical treatment while in prison, including medication for Parkinson’s disease, and held in appalling conditions, all with constant delays to the legal process. His treatment by the authorities has been vindictive and disgraceful.
“The NASUWT and its members have campaigned vigorously on his behalf and will continue to campaign to ensure he is completely exonerated.
“But the fight will continue to secure justice for all trade unionists and human rights activists in Colombia and around the world.”