16 October 2003 Edition

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Bring Them Home campaigners meet MEPs

BY JOANNE CORCORAN

With the Irish presidency of the EU fast approaching, representatives of the Bring Them Home Campaign have conducted a number of meetings with various MEPs to highlight the case of the Colombia Three.

Dublin will hold the presidency from January to June next year and the group has been campaigning for some time for the government to use its term to bring the three men's case to the fore. The EU relationship with Colombia is a fraught one, mainly because of the Union's funding of the Colombian NGO sector and its concerns about the violation of human rights there. Ireland will have a chance to improve this relationship and deal with the problems surrounding it, come next January.

Spokesperson for the group, Caitríona Ruane, was among those who met with the MEPs on 7-8 October, including Fianna Fáil's Niall Andrews and Brian Crowley, the Greens' Patricia McKenna and Nuala Ahern, the SDLP's John Hume, Belgian MEP Bart Staes, and Charlotte Cederschiold and Pedro Marset Campos - vice presidents of the European Parliament and members of the European Parliament delegation for South America.

Speaking to An Phoblacht, Ruane said the meetings were useful, and while there was a total lack of information out there on the case, there was an openness to discussing it and seeing what could be done.

All the MEPs agreed to circulate the information further and raise it with their relevant ambassadors to Colombia. The said that they would also raise it with the European Legal Affairs Committee, and those who will soon be visiting Colombia on other affairs said they would raise the issue when out there.

The group also met with members of the Latin American Unit of the European Commission. This is the group that funds Colombian NGOs. One of its recipient groups is that of the lawyers representing the men. The Commission members recommended that the Irish use the presidency to ensure justice is achieved and advised that information be sent to all EU Embassies in Bogota.

As a result, a letter signed by Fianna Fáil MEPs Brian Crowley and Niall Andrews with the Bring Them Home group's legal summary of the case and the men's statements, have gone out to every embassy in Bogota this week.

Ruane said the campaign will be following up on all the contacts made over the two days and that they are hoping EU pressure on Colombia may help with the men's verdict, which is expected soon.


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