Minister Ploumen: ‘The mining sector must acknowledge the victims in Colombia’

Image: Mede dankzij PAX staan de slachtoffers van Colombiaanse bloedkolen hoog op de politieke agenda. Foto © Ronald de Hommel / PAX

November 17, 2014

The fate of the victims in the Colombian mining region must be acknowledged and a regional reconciliation process must be initiated. It would help if energy companies, as coal clients, actively encouraged this. These were the words of Minister Ploumen of Development Cooperation and Foreign Trade last week during a closed conference on coal in The Hague, which mining company Drummond also attended.

PAX is thrilled with Minister Ploumen’s call to action. The Minister’s statements were even more important because the Drummond mining company recently filed a lawsuit against American and Colombian human rights lawyers. PAX has not been charged but has been accused in the lawsuit ofbeing part of a conspiracy against Drummond with the aim to extort money from and otherwise damage Dummond through illegal acts including bribery, mail fraud, wire fraud, obstruction of justice, witness tampering, and money laundering . For these allegations, the company relies on the legal framework of the RICO Act, which was created in the US to fight against organised crime and mafia.
Minister Ploumen also stated that lawsuits are not the solution and seldom lead to constructive dialogue.

The reason for the accusations made against PAX is the report titled The Dark Side of Coal that the peace organisation published last year, about the alleged involvement of coal mining companies in paramilitary violence in the region. Between 1996 and 2006, paramilitaries killed a total of 3,100 people and drove 55,000 farmers off their land. The victims have never received any compensation or acknowledgement from the mining companies and the victims’ representatives are still being threatened. PAX is striving for reparation and reconciliation in the mining region.

NGOs: ‘Protect critical voices’
Around fifty Dutch and foreign organisations, including FNV, CNV, Oxfam Novib, Cordaid and SOMO, have signed a statement, which reads that there must be room for critical voices, which must not be threatened with legal action. Vice president of the FNV, Catelene Passchier, presented the message of support to Minister Ploumen shortly before the beginning of the coal conference. In the message of support the signatories express their concerns about the accusations made against PAX and other NGOs and persons that are committed to the victims of human rights violations in Cesar. They unequivocally state that the legal accusations do not make any contribution to the much needed process of reconciliation with the victims in Cesar.
The signatories call on European policymakers to defend the interests of civil society organisations and other critical voices to the Colombian government and mining companies. They also urge European energy companies to press mining companies to enter into dialogue with the victims in Cesar.

International trend
The peace organisation is grateful to the huge expression of support from trade unions and fellow NGOs. Marianne Moor from PAX: ” These accusations and the legal steps are in line with an offensive practice of Drummond obstructing critical voices. But it can also be seen as part of a more global trend of international companies to harass civil society organizations and unions with legal steps. This alarming development might have a paralyzing effect on the work of civil society organizations as a whole and on human rights organizations in particular.   
We are delighted with this open support and the emphatic call for critical voices to be protected. PAX offered Drummond a dialogue and a reconciliation process and thus constructively sought a way to achieve peace and reparation outside the Courts.Unfortunately, Drummond’s latest statements and attitude make clear to us that the company has no intention of opting for peace and reconciliation, but instead is taking a hard-line antagonistic approach. We utterly deplore this attitude that goes against the spirit of peace and reconciliation that is currently being felt in Colombia.

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