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New report urges Irish government to prioritise issue of sexual violence in Colombia peace process

3 December 2013. The rape, torture and sexual violence against women is the hidden reality for women in the ongoing Colombian conflict, a new report launched in Dublin today shows. The report, ‘Colombia: Women, Conflict-Related Sexual Violence and the Peace Process’, which is being launched by Christian Aid and Trocaire on behalf of ABColombia, urges the Irish government to take action.

Speaking at the launch, renowned Colombian journalist Jineth Bedoya Lima, who herself was abducted, tortured and raped while carrying out her investigative work into armed conflict, drug trafficking and organised crime, called for urgent action from the Irish government.

Jineth said: ‘In 2000 I was kidnapped while carrying out my work as a journalist. I was tortured and raped by three men. Instead of fleeing I decided to stay in Colombia. It is very difficult to demand justice when you know that 13 years on the perpetrators of these crimes are free.’

‘The Irish government has made strong international commitments to the global agenda of women, peace and security’, she added. ‘Because of this, and their role on the Human Rights Council, Ireland is uniquely placed to urge the Colombian government to ensure that women and the issue of sexual violence are adequately represented at the current peace negotiations.’

According to the report from 2001 to 2009 on average 54,410 women per year, 149 per day, or six women per hour, suffered from sexual violence in Colombia. The report details harrowing examples of violence against women. It also reveals that sexual violence by the security forces, guerrilla groups and paramilitaries is almost never prosecuted despite its widespread and systematic nature in Colombia’s armed conflict.

Former Minister Liz McManus is chairing the report launch and is the current chair of the Irish government’s group to track the implementation of Ireland's National Action Plan on UN Security Council Resolution 1325 on Women, Peace and Security.

Liz McManus said: ‘This Resolution recognises the unique and disproportionate impact of conflict on women and girls. One only has to think of the use of rape and gender based violence as a weapon of war in Colombia to appreciate what is meant by that. The scale of violence against women detailed in this report should compel us all to act.’

Louise Winstanley, ABColombia Programme and Advocacy Manager, said: ‘Sexual violence is being used to terrorise and control communities as part of the conflict. Historic peace negotiations between the government and the FARC are underway in Havana. Evidence clearly shows that women can significantly contribute to peace-building, yet they have been noticeably absent at the negotiating table. Pressure from other governments is badly needed to demand change for women in Colombia.’

The report is being launched on Tuesday 3 December, 11am-1pm, in the Royal College of Physicians, Kildare Street. The launch will be followed by a discussion seminar with guest speakers Colombian Journalist Jineth Bedoya Lima and Louise Winstanley, ABColombia Programme. All speakers are available for interview.



If you would like further information or an interview please contact Karol Balfe in Dublin on (353) 086 190 6839, or Florence Mutesasira on (353) 01 775 8085, (353) 086 160 9405 or email fmutesasira@christian-aid.org.


Notes to editors:

The report is being launched in the Royal College of Physicians, Kildare Street from 11 to 13 on 3 December 2013. The launch will be followed by a discussion seminar with guest speakers Colombian Journalist Jineth Bedoya Lima and Louise Winstanley, ABColombia Programme. All speakers are available for interview.

ABColombia is the advocacy project of a group of five leading UK and Irish organisations with programmes in Colombia: CAFOD, Christian Aid UK and Ireland, Oxfam GB, SCIAF and Trócaire. Amnesty International and Peace Brigades International are observers.

Estimates regarding the total number of people killed in Colombia from the conflict range from 220,000 to 600,000. Additionally, approximately 6.6 million hectares of land has been abandoned or usurped during this time, excluding collectively owned territories of Indigenous and Afro-Colombian Peoples. As of September 2012, 75,345 persons were registered on the National Registry of Disappeared Persons, with an estimate of 25,007 enforced disappearances, although this is a crime that is massively under-reported. There have also been 27,000 kidnappings, of which 24,482 were by the guerrillas.

Human rights defenders and community leaders working on land and victims’ rights are being particularly targeted with the number of attacks and killings increasing year-on-year, culminating in 69 leaders/ defenders killed in 2012 (compared to 32 in 2010). Colombia has the highest number of internally displaced peoples in the world at 5.7 million (2012).

The Irish National Action Plan on 1325 was launched by the Tánaiste and the former President of Ireland, Mary Robinson in November 2011. It sets out the way that Ireland will promote and implement the objectives of the UN Security Resolution 1325 in its programme support activities, diplomatic advocacy and policy making across the interrelated areas of peace, security and development.