The Law Society hosted a roundtable discussion last month (25 June) to promote wider peace talks in Colombia.
The society is working with trade union specialist firm Thompsons Solicitors and non-government organisation Justice for Colombia to promote a humanitarian exchange programme to initiate a peace process aimed at ending conflict between left-wing and right-wing militias, cocaine barons and the army.
Law Society president Fiona Woolf said: “The society has valuable experience in supporting the development of an independent legal profession, which plays a key role in upholding democratic processes, and it needs to be made clear that negotiations, not war, are the way forward.”
The roundtable was attended by a Colombian delegation that explained how the humanitarian exchange, which involves the release of prisoners by the government and guerrilla groups, could prompt wider peace talks.
The delegates discussed the need for the international community to play a key role in helping to achieve peace by applying pressure on both the Colombian government and the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) guerrilla group to respect the rule of law, cease violence and continue with negotiations.
The talks preceded a report published by Amnesty International last week (3 July), which exposed how, during the past two decades, more than 2,000 Colombian trade unionists have been killed and more than 180 have been victims of enforced disappearance. Those responsible for these atrocities have been brought to justice in less than 10 per cent of cases.
Thompsons executive chair and joint chair of the discussion Geoff Shears said: “Thompsons have been involved in delegations to Colombia as part of our international work and have seen at first hand what ordinary people face on a day-to-day basis. We’re pleased to be able to play some part in trying to bring about the peace that we feel people in Colombia deserve.”