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INSPP Statement in solidarity with the Eron, Picota Political and War Prisoners

1st December 2014

Beginning on November 24, 2014, 180 political prisoners and prisoners of war held at the ERON Picota prison in Bogota have been carrying out a hunger strike. They are calling for sick and wounded prisoners to receive adequate medical care. Prisoners have that right under the laws and the Constitution of Colombia, Colombian government treaties, and international human rights law. INSPP calls upon President Juan Manuel Santos and responsible authorities of his government to grant their demands, now.

In its denunciation November 28 of the Colombian government’s abusive treatment of prisoners, the Eduardo Umaña Judicial Brigade cites “International treaties that prohibit cruel, inhumane, and degrading treatments.”

INSPP adds its voice also to the strikers’ demand that the Colombian government put an end, once and for all, to abusive prison conditions tolerated for too long. They include: overcrowding, wretched food and sanitary conditions, interference with family visiting, physical beatings, and impediments put in the way of prisoners’ contacts with lawyers and human rights observers.

Also to be condemned is INPEC’s apparent disregard of preliminary agreements reached on November 27 between representatives of the striking prisoners and prison officials.

Those among the hunger strikers who are imprisoned combatants of the FARC-EP are prisoners of war. Otherwise why would representatives of the FARC-EP and the Colombian government have remained in Havana, Cuba for two years negotiating an end to war? As prisoners of war they enjoy rights under the Geneva Conventions.

We say denial of medical care to political prisoners and prisoners of war is torture. Taken in conjunction with murders and disappearances in the Colombian countryside, stifling of dissent in civil society, and continued offensive operations by the national army, abusive treatment of political prisoners testifies to a country at war. In that situation, the question remains as to the Colombian government’s dedication to peace with justice, presently being negotiated in Cuba.

Although the situation of prisoners of war ago was placed on the peace negotiators’ agenda two years ago, that item has yet to be discussed.

INSPP thus joins the Picota hunger strikers and other human and prisoners’ rights organizations in demanding that the Colombian government take two actions. They are: one, guarantee accessible and competent medical care for political prisoners and prisoners of war and, two, restore basic human rights and conditions of decent living to all prisoners in Colombia.

Thirdly, INSPP calls for a bilateral ceasefire. Henceforth, peace negotiations must take place in the absence of military operations and with limits placed on violence and abuse at the hands of the Colombian government and its agents.