I have written to my MP, Sir Alan Haselhurst, and Jack Straw regarding the UK’s position on Colombia, particularly its failure to condemn Plan Colombia as the source of many human rights violations and the continuing flow of arms to Colombia from the UK.
I have found out information regarding British arms exports and how they might be contributing to human rights violations. I believe the flow of arms to Colombia is against British law regarding arms exports and terrorism.
Among the Standard Individual Export Licences (SIELs) issued for Colombian-bound exports in 2000 were: smoke hand grenades; stun grenades; toxic chemical precursor.
Among the Open Individual Export Licences (OIELs) were: technology for the production of toxin; components for military-use helicopter.
According to Saferworld, the smoke and stun grenades are being used for ‘internal repression’. In a press release, the organisation adds: "It is questionable whether these exports are in keeping with the criteria that arms exports will not be licensed ‘which would provoke or prolong armed conflicts or existing tensions or conflicts’."
According to www.colombiaupdate.com, the right-wing AUC death squads have begun using military helicopters to attack civilians. The helicopters appear to have been donated by some Colombian army brigades and the AUC is using them in conjuction with government raids on villages.
Toxic chemical spraying of coca crops in the Plan Colombia drugs war has led to widespread food crop failure.
This may be evidence of British involvement in terrorism. The Terrorism Act 2000 defines terrorism as:
- the use or threat is designed to influence the government or to intimidate the public or a section of the public
- the use or threat is made for the purpose of advancing a political, religious or ideological cause
- action that involves serious violence against a person; involves serious damage to property; endangers a person’s life (other than that of the person committing the action); creates a serious risk to the health or safety of the public or a section of the public; and/or, is designed seriously to interfere with or seriously to disrupt an electronic system.
As I understand it, under this act, it is illegal to support or participate in these actions whether in the UK or abroad and does not have to include the interpretation listed under (2).
It is unclear whether the AUC is defined as a terrorist organisation by the UK government. In November 2001, the Treasury ordered financial institutions to freeze any assets the AUC might have in the UK. However, Jack Straw has not proscribed the organisation under the Terrorism Act. Nevertheless, it is clear that there is reason to believe UK arms are finding their way to Colombian death squads via the military. As such, under arms control and anti-terrorism legislation, there must be an arms embargo on Colombia and any company dealing in military-related equipment with the Colombian government should face prosecution. I would also suggest that Jack Straw face charges of knowingly aiding terrorists who have murdered thousands of unarmed civilians.