Kim Howells in February, enjoying
himself in the company of Colombian death squads
UNISON, the UK’s largest public service union, has today condemned
comments made by Foreign Office Minister Kim Howells and called on him
to withdraw them immediately or consider his position.
Allegations made by Kim Howells that the trade union backed organisation
‘Justice for Colombia (JFC)’ supports the FARC guerrilla group, has
endangered the lives of Colombian trade unionists and human rights
campaigners supported by JFC and the British trade union movement.
UNISON Deputy General Secretary Keith Sonnet said:
"UNISON is shocked and appalled at the dangerous comments made by Kim
Howells. He should be aware of the consequences that his remarks can
cause and should withdraw them immediately, or consider his position.
"It is completely unacceptable that a UK Minister should be resorting to
such dangerous tactics, instead of engaging in a serious debate over
concerns about UK policy in Colombia. UNISON has a longstanding
relationship with JFC, and many members have participated in delegations
to Colombia organised by them. These unfounded comments put the lives of
those participating in future delegations at risk."
Kim Howells is facing criticism after he appeared in photos in the
Guardian and Western Mail, standing with soldiers from a military unit,
which is alleged to have murdered trade unionists. He also features in
another where he appears to be sharing a joke with General Montoya,
Commander of Colombian National Army. This is the man who was named
last year in a US House of Representatives report as having allegedly
"collaborated extensively with militias that the Department of State
considers terrorists organisations".
JFC and the UK trade union movement have called on the UK government to
stop giving military aid to the Colombian government until they begin to
respect human rights and stop colluding with death squads to murder
Kim Howells appears to be imitating the Colombian Government, which uses
intimidation to silence its critics, instead of responding to legitimate
concerns about the human rights crisis in Colombia