Domingo Tovar Arrieta, Director of the Human Rights Department of CUT

Re: Domingo Tovar Arrieta, Director of the Human Rights Department of Central Unitaria de Trabajadores de Colombia (“CUT”), Colombian Trade Union Confederation; Ana Paulina Tovar González, Student; AND Other members of CUT

To: Señor Presidente Álvaro Uribe Vélez, Presidente de la República Colombia

From: Monique Pongracic-Speier

Date: 2003-11-21

As you know from previous correspondence, Lawyers’ Rights Watch Canada (“LRWC”), is a committee of Canadian lawyers that promotes the enforcement of human rights standards and the rule of law. We also support human rights defenders around the world.

LRWC is extremely disappointed and disturbed at fresh reports of death threats and violence against trade unionists in Colombia. You may recall that on September 12, 2003, I wrote to you concerning an attempt on the life of Juan Carlos Galvis, a trade unionist in Barrancabermeja. It is with great regret that I find it necessary to write to you again concerning new threats against trade unionists.

On October 30, 2003, Mr. Domingo Tovar Arrieta reportedly received an anonymous call to his mobile telephone, in which the caller said, “Pagará con su vida la pérdida del referendo”. Apparently, the caller was referring to the recent defeat of a referendum aimed at securing popular support for a series of government reforms. CUT, and Mr. Arrieta in particular, had supported a vote abstention campaign.

In light of the October 30th death threat, LRWC is gravely concerned for Mr. Arrieta’s safety, and for that of his daughter, Ana Paulina Tovar González. Ms. González was previously the subject of two attempted abductions. We are also concerned about the safety of other CUT members who support Mr. Arrieta’s position.

LRWC notes that there have been a deplorable 58 documented killings of trade unionists in Colombia in 2003. We further note that there has been ample evidence to link army-backed paramilitaries and certain guerilla groups with these murders.

Colombia is legally bound by customary and conventional international law to protect trade unionists’ safety when they are threatened as a result of their organizational and other trade union activities. Once again, Mr. President, LRWC urges you to act on your country’s obligations pursuant to:

Article 22 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights;

Article 16 of the American Convention on Human Rights; and

Convention (No. 87) Concerning Freedom of Association and Protection of the Right to Organize, among other laws.

Mr. President, LRWC also calls upon you and your Government to do the following:

Take effective action to guarantee the safety of Mr. Arrieta, Ms. González, and others who are at risk. To this end, we respectfully suggest that the Minister of the Interior’s protection programme for trade unionists requires more resources to operate effectively. We call on you to make those resources available.

We call on you to order a full and impartial investigation into the threats against Mr. Arrieta, and into the broader question of the links between the security forces and paramilitary organizations. It is imperative that the results of these investigations be made public and that those responsible for the violence and threats be brought to justice.

Finally, LRWC once again urges you to take decisive action to dismantle paramilitary groups, in line with your Government’s previously stated commitments and the recommendations made by the United Nations and other intergovernmental organizations.

Please advise LRWC, by mail, e-mail or fax, of your response to this communication.