Swiss NGOs want aid to Colombia linked to human rights progress

People hold placards during a vigil as a protest against the killing of social leaders in Bogota, Colombia, 06 July 2018. Keystone

The Swiss government is under pressure to condition financial aid on the respect of human rights in Colombia, which has witnessed an alarming surge in murders of social leaders.

This content was published on July 26, 2018 - 08:51 with SDA-ATS; ds

The request was made by dozens of Swiss non-governmental organisations and charities in an open letter to president Alain Berset and foreign minister Ignazio Cassis.

Swissaid said that 123 human rights defenders have been killed in the past  six months in Colombia.  

Since 2016, when the Colombian government reached a landmark peace agreement with the revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC), 311 murders have been committed. 

The situation is so serious, noted the letter, that the United Nations has already questioned the Colombian government. But since the latter does not react, the next step is to apply international pressure.

The Swiss government provided experts to help with negotiations between the two sides of the Colombian conflict and an original version of the 2016 peace agreement is in Bern for safekeeping.

Swiss Humanitarian Aid has earmarked CHF35 million ($35 million) for aid and civilian protection for the 2017-2020 period, according to the Federal Department of Foreign Affairs.

Colombia is also Switzerland's sixth most important trading partner in Latin America.

The letter to Swiss officials was issued on Wednesday and drafted by Swissaid and Swiss-Colombia Working Group. Among the signatories are Public Eye, Amnesty International and Terre des hommes

Politicians, researchers, and activists also lent support to the appeal.

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