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NASUWT continues to campaign for justice for Colombian trade unionists

Omar Combita freed from jail

Omar CombitaThe 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.”

NASUWT votes for TUC emergency motion to free jailed activist Huber Ballesteros

The NASUWT voted for an emergency motion, at the TUC Congress on Monday 2 September 2013, to free Huber Ballesteros, Vice-President of FENSUAGRO, an agricultural workers’ union.

Huber was invited to speak at the 2013 Congress but was arrested and jailed on 25 August for false charges of rebellion and financing terrorism. This arrest followed a wave of strikes and protests within Colombia during August organised by the Patriotic March, an organisation of which Huber was a leading figure.

The TUC Congress was reminded of the appalling situation in Colombia in which over 3,000 trade unionists have been assassinated, with several being killed in recent weeks.

The emergency motion called for support for Justice for Colombia’s campaigns against this violence and after the motion delegates held pictures of Huber, calling for his release, to demonstrate solidarity with the jailed trade unionists.

For information in support of this campaign please go to http://www.justiceforcolombia.org/news/article/1477/tuc-calls-for-release-of-imprisoned-colombian-trade-unionist

The NASUWT has long supported the work of Justice for Colombia, highlighting in particular the case of Omar Alfonso Combita, the teacher trade unionist imprisoned in 2011 for carrying out trade union activists, who has been denied medical treatment for Parkinson’s Disease. This support has included writing and meeting with UK officials both in the UK and in Colombia.

To sign the petition please go to: http://www.justiceforcolombia.org/campaigns/omar-combita/

Extreme concern over missing Colombian activist

The NASUWT is extremely concerned for the safety of FENSUAGRO trade unionist Herman Henry Diaz, who may have been forcibly disappeared on April 18.

NASUWT Ex-President John Rimmer has signed a letter addressed to the Columbian Ambassador along with the other members of the UK delegation of senior trade unionists and MPs that visited Columbia in February.

The delegation travelled to Puerto Asis, Putumayo, in the country and met Mr Diaz, who helped the delegation meet victims of human rights abuses. At the time of his disappearance he had been organising a delegation of 200 activists to take part in a mass demonstration in the capital Bogota.

The delegation are calling on the Ambassador to make representations ot the Columbian Government calling of Mr Diaz to be found and safely returned to his home.

World Teachers Day

Colombia is one of four countries officially approved by the NASUWT National Executive to receive support for its trade union movement. The Union has strong links with Justice For Colombia, and sent a delegation to the South American country in 2007. They visited teachers sentenced to imprisonment but later released, thanks in part to international pressure from organisations such as NASUWT.

Colombia Resources to mark World Teachers' Day

TUC attacks proposals for EU free trade agreement

Moves towards a free trade agreement between the European Union (EU) and Columbia closer have been criticised as “deeply disappointing” by the Trades Union Congress (TUC).

The TUC and British trade unions, alongside unions across Europe and Latin America, have called for negotiations on the agreement to be halted while violence against trade unionists and human rights workers in Columbia continues.

Last year 52 trade unionists were murdered in the country and six have been killed so far this year. The latest killing was of two agricultural workers, Hector Orozco and Gildardo Garcia, both active trade unionists who had been threatened by a Columbian army officer.

In a statement the TUC said: “The problems facing our Colombian sisters and brothers are longstanding and deeply ingrained and will not be solved with the addition of some aspirational, but entirely unenforceable text, in the margins of a trade agreement.

“We need to see concrete progress at ground level in regard to ending the violence, dealing with the culture of impunity surrounding attacks on trade unionists and securing labour law reform and enforcement so that trade unionists are able to organise freely."