Justice for Henry Diaz, Colombian trade unionist, disappeared 18th April 2012

Human rights hearing organised by Henry, February 2012.
Human rights hearing organised by Henry, February 2012.

Justice for Henry Diaz, Colombian trade unionist, disappeared 18th April 2012.

At 3.30pm on 18th April 2012 Colombian trade unionist Henry Diaz contacted his wife whilst he was out at work. He has not been heard from or seen again. Weeks after his disappearance his clothes were found on a road linking two military checkpoints. Sadly, it is likely that Henry has been murdered.

Henry Diaz may have been targeted for a number of reasons. He was a leading member of FENSUAGRO, the Colombian agricultural workers union. Over a thousand FENSUAGRO members have been killed. In February 2012 he had organised a human rights hearing for a Justice for Colombia delegation to highlight abuses in his region. He was due to lead a delegation of 200 local people to take part in a Patriotic March demonstration, a new social and political opposition movement, the weekend after his disappearance.

Henry was last seen at an army checkpoint and even the Colombian authorities themselves have confirmed that the army controls the area. There is grave concern that Henry has been assassinated in order to silence him.

Henry is one of 69 trade unionists assassinated or disappeared in Colombia under the current administration. Over 2,800 Colombian trade unionists have been murdered since 1986.The majority of killings have been carried out by right wing paramilitary death squads, with proven links to state forces, while many were committed directly by the army, police or intelligence agencies.

According to a 2012 report by the UN Development Programme, in 95% of cases no one is brought to justice for these crimes.

Despite the Colombian government’s claims to be committed to human rights, the union movement has denounced the dismantling of the government protection scheme for trade Unionists, including a 50% cut to fuel for vehicles in the scheme, meaning many threatened leaders cannot use the cars and remain without protection.

Justice for Colombia and Simpson Millar LLP solicitors are campaigning for the Colombian government to find Henry and ensure that those responsible for the crimes against him and the 68 other trade unionists assassinated and disappeared during this administration are brought to justice. We are also calling on them to provide full protection for those at risk.

At Labour Party Conference this year, several politicians and union leaders signed a petition in support, including Chris Bryant, former Foreign Office minister, Rob Flello, shadow junior minister for Justice and Ian McNicol, Labour Party General Secretary. Click here to see their photos on the JFC Tumblr.

MOVICE, the National Movement of Victims in Colombia, as well as FENSUAGRO, the agricultural workers’ union, and the Permanent Committee of Human Rights, Colombia’s longest running human rights organisation, are also campaigning for justice for Henry Diaz.

Please sign the below e-action to add your support.

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Justice for Henry Diaz, Colombian trade unionist, disappeared 18th April 2012

Dear President Santos,

C/O HE Mauricio Rodriguez, Colombian Ambassador to the UK and Ireland

I am concerned by the disappearance of Henry Diaz, Colombian trade unionist, and by the murders of the 68 other trade unionists during the first two years of your administration. Henry’s clothes were found in Putumayo, between two military checkpoints, and the Colombian authorities have confirmed that no other armed groups operate in the area. I am concerned that the Colombian armed forces may be responsible.

I also know that in 95% of cases no one is brought to justice for these crimes and that, while the killings continue, your administration has made cuts to the security scheme for unionists and other activists at risk, leaving many without protection.

These actions belie your government’s claims to be committed to human rights. Members of the international community, among them British MPs and union leaders, have called for justice for Henry Diaz, and I support their calls: There must be a full investigation into Henry Diaz’ disappearance and into the murders of the trade unionists killed under your administration and those at risk must receive the full protection they request.

I look forward to progress in this matter.

Yours sincerely,

[Your Name]