Active member
Does anyone have any views on the Columbia 3??

Issued on behalf of the families of Niall Connolly, Martin McCauley and Jim Monaghan.

The arrest, detention and continued treatment of the three Irish men held in Colombia constitute a flagrant breach of their human rights.

Niall Connolly, Martin McCauley and Jim Monaghan were arrested at Bogota airport on August 11 en route to Ireland from the demilitarised zone, controlled by the FARC in south east Colombia.

The Colombian military, whose notorious 13th brigade arrested the three men claimed that satellite images would prove the allegation that the men were training the FARC in the use of explosives. The 13th Brigade has been cited by international human rights agencies for involvement in torture, kidnapping and unlawful killings over
recent years.

In subsequent days the claim that the men had been photographed by satellite was withdrawn.
Recent investigation by Irish and Colombian lawyers acting for the men have confirmed that the forensic examinations were carried out in most unsatisfactory circumstances and in a manner which would be totally unacceptable to courts in this or other normal jurisdictions.

The men's bags were transported from the FARC demilitarised zone in the hold of an aircraft owned by the Colombian military and often used for the transport of military supplies.

When they were arrested the bags were placed on a table in a military compound which had been used for storing detonators and other military equipment.

The clothes which the men were wearing were not tested and no swabs were taken from the men's bodies, a clear breach of accepted procedures and a fact which clearly undermines the quality of the investigation process.

The most detailed forensic test, carried out by the Colombian police authorities, found no traces of drugs or explosives on the men's clothes or bags, according to reports in Bogota.

The Colombian military also claimed to have witnesses who identified at least one of the men on previous visits to the FARC zone. It also claims that it had comments made on radio by a FARC commander allegedly stating that three "monos" or blondes were involved in explosives training.

Newspapers in Ireland and Britain reproduced these unsubstantiated claims without telling readers that the military regularly claims to intercept self incriminating messages from FARC commanders, claims that are refuted in Colombia's media with equal frequency.

In deciding to detain rather than deport the men, the normal punishment for using false documents, the Colombian authorities may also have been influenced by inaccurate and unsubstantiated Irish and British media reports.

These were reproduced in the Bogota newspapers and television which, without a shred of evidence, alleged that the men were involved inter alia in the manufacture of explosives, in the transport of Semtex to Colombia and in the construction of Napalm bombs.

These outlandish reports were attributed to unidentified British security sources while a claim reported in the Irish media that all three were known members of the IRA was subsequently discounted by senior Gardai in Dublin.
The Garda confirmed that at least one of the men, Niall Connolly, had never been known as a member of Sinn Fein or the IRA.

This confirmation came after the three had been detained for further investigation.

Within days of their arrest the three were removed to the notorious La Modelo jail in central Bogota where right wing para-militaries regularly clash with the left wing members of FARC.

The three, highly exposed Irishmen, already accused of collaborating with the FARC, became immediate targets for attack by the right wing factions. However, they were housed in a section of the jail directly under the right wing para-militaries where they were vulnerable to attack at anyt ime.

Three nervous and scarcely armed guards were the only defence the men had from a heavily armed group housed only two doors away.

In a further breach of their human rights they were denied access to fresh air or exercise for the first ten days of their detention in Modelo. They were held together in a cell 4m by 4m.

Because of the conditions in which the men were held for the first five weeks the preparation of a proper legal defence was not possible.

After pressure from the men and their families through the Department of Foreign Affairs and the Irish embassy in Mexico city, they were moved in early September to the Dijin police headquarters in central Bogota.
Here they are held in safer conditions although again in circumstances which clearly breach their fundamental human rights.

They denied being involved in any illegal or military activities. They said that as known republicans McCauley and Monaghan could only travel, without harassment, to such places on false documents. Connolly said that as a Cuban resident he could not safely travel in the region without using false documents.

The FARC commander, Raul Reyes, has told ITN television that the men met him for political discussions. Its senior commander, Marulanda, has claimed that the arrests of the three Irish men are part of an attempt by the Colombian military to destroy the peace process in that country.

The IRA has stated that it did not send any of its members to Colombia to engage in military co-operation with any group. Read statment>>>

The Colombian government has confirmed that one of the stated objectives of the demilitarisation zone was to encourage and allow international organisations, governments and individuals to visit the FARC for political

It is a commitment contained in the accords agreed between the FARC and the Colombian government of President Pastrana earlier this year.Paragraph 9 of the Joint Agreement on the Peace Process signed at Los Pozos by the Colombian and FARC - EP in February 2001 states;

"Understanding the importance of the international community to the success of the peace process in Colombia, we are inviting representatives of friendly countries and international organisations to come on 8 March so that we can inform them about the state and progress of the process and encourage their collaboration. The National Dialogue and Negotiation Table will determine how often these meetings will take place."

The high profile arrests coincided with a critical phase in the Colombian and Irish peace processes.
In Colombia, the demilitarised zone was extended until January 2002 following diccusions between the government and FARC. This was agreed despite clear pressures from the Colombian army, recently re-armed with sophisticated weapons under the US financed $1.3 billion Plan Colombia, and which does not want a peace process when it believes that it can achieve a military victory over the FARC. Recent events in Colombia have confirmed that the peace process in that country is under severe pressure.

Certain media outlets and politicians in Ireland used the arrests to advance their political agendas by making inflammatory and inaccurate statements which have contributed to the decision by the Colombian authorities to detain them.

Inaccurate and unsubstantiated allegations were made against the men including the claim that they are part of some "narco-terrorist conspiracy".

Legal and human rights sources in Colombia (who cannot be named due to fears for their own security) have confirmed that there is no safe place of detention for these men in a country where jails are full of factions armed with weapons and explosives.The publicity surrounding their arrest and their physical complexion makes them particularly vulnerable to attack.

Human rights organisations and legal sources share the view that the longer they remain in detention the greater the risk to their lives.

Many lawyers and human rights experts also believe that their chances of securing a fair legal process is also remote given the publicity surrounding their arrest and the manner in which evidence was collected against them.
The delay in preparing an adequate legal defence against the allegations by the Colombian military has also damaged their prospects of obtaining a fair legal process.

Their legal representatives in Colombia have stressed that only a powerful, diplomatic and political campaign directed at the Colombian government will achieve their safe return to their families. The Catholic Church which has great influence in Colombia can be an important element in such a campaign.

A legal process is not sufficient to secure their safety although it is essential to pursue all the necessary legal and judicial procedures in Colombia.

The campaign for their immediate release on humanitarian grounds must mobilise the concerned public in Ireland, the international human rights community and the governments of those countries with vital interests in Colombia, including the US and Britain.

Ireland, as a key member of the United Nations Security Council, on which Colombia also has a representative has particular influence through the Minister for Foreign Affairs, Brian Cowen at this time.
The UN Human Rights commission can also have a vital role in protecting the men's welfare and highlighting the current difficulties in Colombia.

The European Union presidency and human rights organisations in Ireland and abroad, and the Catholic Church, which has a major influence in Colombia, can also assist in securing the release of these men on humanitarian grounds.
The Colombians are going to take any perceived threat by FARC to the limit. FARC is a major destablizing force in Colombia and as bad as Brigada 13 may be in your opinion FARC has made Colombia the worlds leader in kidnapping for ransom. As well as conducting terror bombing campaigns in Bogata, Cali, Medillan and Cartegena.
I doubt that the Goverment will take the IRA's word that these men are not members. After battling the FARC, since the 50's they have a pretty low opinion of terrorist organizations.
Your all right but if ye read on, they had the country here to back them and have been released and sent home.

A major push to seal a political settlement for the turbulent British province of Northern Ireland stalled at the last moment yesterday over demands for photographic evidence of IRA guerillas scrapping their arms.

Protestant unionists led by 78-year-old hardline preacher Ian Paisley are demanding Catholic Irish Republican Army guerillas allow photographic proof of disarmament to show "repentance" for three decades of conflict.

But Sinn Fein, the IRA's political ally, says that would be unacceptable humiliation for one of Europe's oldest guerilla groups which is proud of Britain's failure to defeat it. British and Irish Prime Ministers Tony Blair and Bertie Ahern who have been brokering negotiations, said they came tantalisingly close to a new settlement for Northern Ireland.

"We will carry on working to get this last part of the way, this last part of the climb," Mr Blair told a news conference.

Mr Ahern said: "Our work must continue to secure agreement and closure on what by any standards is a hugely impressive, and indeed a landmark package."

The two leaders were speaking at Belfast's Waterfront Hall - a shiny symbol of regeneration in post-ceasefire Northern Ireland - where they had intended to trumpet a new agreement to revive a local assembly first set up under the US-backed 1998 Good Friday Agreement.

Instead they found themselves back among depressingly familiar scenes of recriminations between rival Protestant and Catholic parties.

The two governments published the proposals they hoped would form agreement for a new deal, saying they had got agreement on every issue except IRA disarmament - a sticking point that has dogged their efforts in the province for the past seven years.
Northern Ireland
1921 The political division of Ireland takes place as, after centuries of British rule, including 120 years when the country was governed as part of the United Kingdom, 26 of the 32 counties of Ireland gain independence. The remaining six continue in political union with Britain as Northern Ireland.

1921 - 1972 A devolved government in Northern Ireland operates with virtual autonomy from London on local matters. Power remains exclusively in the hands of the Unionist Party. The Nationalist community has no role in government and suffers systematic discrimination in many areas including voting rights, housing and employment.

1969 Non violent campaigners, drawing inspiration from the United States, campaign for civil rights and are met with a hostile and repressive response from the Northern Ireland authorities, ushering in a period of sustained political crisis.

1970's Against the background of political crisis the early 1970's see a revival of paramilitary activity by the IRA and a corresponding growth in paramilitary violence by extreme Loyalist groups. In a deteriorating security situation the British Government brings Northern Ireland under the direct control of the Westminster Parliament.

1980's From the early 1980's the Irish and British Governments begin to co-operate closely in efforts to achieve a widely acceptable and durable political resolution to the Northern Ireland conflict. An Anglo-Irish Intergovernmental Council is formed to provide a framework in which relations between the two Governments can be conducted.

1990's In 1991/92 the Governments convene round table talks involving the Ulster Unionist Part, the Social Democrat and Labour Party, the Democratic Unionist Party and the Alliance Party. In 1997 following a renewal of the IRA ceasefire Sinn Féin enter Multi-Party Talks and substantive discussions get under way. On Friday 10th April 1999, Good Friday, a comprehensive agreement is reached between the parties containing provisions for constitutional change and new political structure in Northern Ireland, between Ireland North and South and between Britain and Ireland. On May 22nd 1998 in referendums North and South, the people of Ireland give their overwhelming endorsement of the Agreement, the first occasion since 1918 in which all of the people of Ireland voted together to decide their political future.

The Present Since the achievement of the Good Friday Agreement, its full implementation has been the highest priority for the Irish Government. Working in close co-operation with the British Government and with the parties, substantial progress has been made. On December 12th 1999, the same day on which power was devolved to the Northern Ireland Executive, The British and Irish Governments exchanged notifications bringing the British and Irish agreement into force.
The Taoiseach, Mr Ahern, last night issued a full apology to the DUP leader, Rev Ian Paisley, after he had earlier said the photographing of IRA decommissioning was not "workable".

The statement, following a Dublin meeting with Sinn Féin's Mr Gerry Adams and Mr Martin McGuinness, led the DUP to threaten to break off relations with the Government.

However, Mr Ahern seems to have healed the rift in a nine-minute phone call to Dr Paisley, emphasising that the governments still wanted IRA decommissioning to be photographed.

"The Taoiseach apologised for any confusion that this might have caused, and reassured Rev Paisley that the Irish Government had not abandoned the proposals of last week," said a spokeswoman.

In a bid to bring an end to the controversy as quickly as possible, Government sources made no effort to hide the fact that Mr Ahern had blundered in his remarks. "Ian Paisley was very, very upset," said one source. "I think some people were a little worried that the reverend wouldn't take the call."

The DUP said it expected formally to remove the boycott of Government Ministers and officials once the Taoiseach had publicly put on record his position.

A party spokesman told The Irish Times that Mr Ahern had met its primary requirements during his phone call. Once he made his position clear publicly, most probably during his statement during the Dáil debate on the British-Irish "Comprehensive Agreement" tomorrow morning, "then DUP members would be free to have talks with Dermot Ahern at Hillsborough later".

In his remarks to journalists, the Taoiseach said: "The Government's position is that we were happy with John de Chastelain. Then there was the issue of further witnesses. We were happy with that. We tried the issue of photographs. That's not workable, so we have to try and find some other way. The big issue is that decommissioning, as I understand it, is ready to happen; is ready to happen as part of a comprehensive agreement. It won't happen if we don't get a comprehensive agreement. Let's try to make it happen."

Although Mr Ahern has reaffirmed his commitment to the photographing of IRA decommissioning, it is not certain that he is committed to their publication.

Speaking alongside Mr Ahern, Mr Adams said "the photograph was never a runner, particularly since Ian Paisley described it as being part of a process of humiliation. The focus can be on words. The focus can be on photographs. It can be on all of these matters. But it needs to be on the substance of what has to be required, and then how that is verified and presented."

After Mr Adams met Mr Tony Blair in London, Sinn Féin declared the issue of photographs "dead and gone and buried in Ballymena".
The Taoiseach will today stand over the demand by the Irish and British governments that IRA decommissioning will have to be photographed unless another compromise acceptable to all sides can be found.

However, Mr Ahern will not apologise to the Democratic Unionist Party leader, Rev Ian Paisley, following his apparent blunder on Monday when he said photography was "unworkable".

The DUP will decide after Mr Ahern speaks in the Dáil at 12.15 p.m. whether or not to keep a scheduled meeting with the Minister for Foreign Affairs, Mr Dermot Ahern, in Hillsborough shortly after 3 p.m.

Last night the Government spokeswoman said the Taoiseach would say "that he continues to believe that the proposals published last week are the best way forward on this issue."

However, she said, the Taoiseach had already spoken with the DUP leader to deal with "any offence" caused by his remarks on Monday.

"He took very swift action. The Dáil speech is not to be an apology," she said.

The Government, she said, "presumed" that Dr Paisley was not seeking a public apology. "We would presume that they are looking for the record to be straightened out."

The Minister for Foreign Affairs and the Northern Secretary, Mr Paul Murphy, will, along with US President Bush's special envoy, Mr Mitchell Reiss, meet the parties in Hillsborough.

In Limavady, Co Derry, yesterday, Mr Murphy indicated the two governments were open to suggestions of an alternative to decommissioning photographs.

"Now, it may be that there may be some way in which we can get around the issue of photographs in some other method, or use some other method of transparency.

"But the key to it is not the mechanism but it is the acceptability of whatever it is that everybody can agree on," he said.

Last night, the Government rejected charges by the SDLP leader, Mr Mark Durkan, that it has bowed to DUP demands to change the Belfast Agreement.

In Dublin, Mr Durkan said the SDLP could be thrown out of the Executive if it failed to vote for, or abstained from, a motion to appoint a DUP first minister and Sinn Féin deputy first minister.

Acknowledging that Mr Durkan was "essentially correct", the Government spokeswoman said the new rules would prevent parties "from having it each way", by forcing all those interested in holding office to vote for the Executive.

Meanwhile, the Minister for Communications, Mr Dempsey, said some of those opposing the release of the killers of Garda Jerry McCabe were "undermining the Government's efforts to bring about an end" to 30 years of violence.

"In that context it would be a complete betrayal of the Irish people to refuse to consider the release of the remaining prisoners in Irish prisons no matter how unpalatable that may be," he said in a letter to The Irish Times.

"This is especially so if it means that no other family will have to suffer the pain and trauma that Ann McCabe, her family and thousands like them suffered because of the violence inflicted on them," he said.

Rejecting the Government's charge that Fine Gael was exploiting the McCabe issue, senior Fine Gael sources last night said they had not tried to damage Mr Ahern following his apology to Dr Paisley.

In the Seanad yesterday, Dr Martin Mansergh said the Taoiseach's apology was an example of "a non-macho approach to peace making" that should be followed by Northern parties.
The DUP leader, the Rev Ian Paisley, has said he has information that the IRA may be about to decommission but without providing photographic verification.

Ahead of a meeting between the Taoiseach and British Prime Minister today, Dr Paisley made it clear that, if the IRA decommissioned under the original terms of the International Independent Commission on Decommissioning (IICD), it would be unacceptable to the DUP.

There must be visual proof of IRA disarmament, he insisted, after meeting the Minister for Foreign Affairs, Mr Dermot Ahern, and the Northern Secretary, Mr Paul Murphy, at Hillsborough Castle yesterday to discuss the political logjam.

"There is an indication that the IRA may be considering proceeding to decommission its weapons under the original IICD scheme leaving out the additional elements relating to transparency," said Dr Paisley.

"We want to make it clear that if the IRA does not fulfil its obligations as envisaged in the comprehensive agreement then its refusal to meet these terms would have very serious consequences in respect of the DUP's attitude to other elements of the comprehensive agreement."

Mr Ahern, Mr Murphy and republican and IICD sources said they had no information to suggest IRA decommissioning was imminent.

Sinn Féin's response was dismissive. "Ian Paisley's remarks sound remarkably like an ultimatum to the IRA not to decommission," said a party spokesman.

Dr Paisley was adopting a position that most people would find "daft". Republicans were angered by his "sack cloth and ashes" and "humiliation" of republicans comments, but last night "in a lot of republican homes there would be a lot of laughter", the spokesman said.

"I think humour could be a way out of our problems. There can be a chance of resolution if we can laugh at each other, but I am not sure if that was Ian Paisley's intention."

Mr Ahern and Mr Murphy met the DUP, Sinn Féin, the Ulster Unionist Party, the SDLP, the Alliance Party, the Progressive Unionist Party and the UK Independence Party to trawl for ideas that might solve the issue of photographic verification of decommissioning.

President Bush's special envoy on Ireland, Dr Mitchell Reiss, was also in Hillsborough.

Mr Ahern said the governments still believed their blueprint for restoring devolution (which included the requirement for publication of pictures of IRA disarmament after devolution was restored) was a "fair and reasonable compromise".

He thanked the DUP for attending the meeting after the controversy over the Taoiseach's comments about the publication of photographs not being "workable".

Mr Ahern said that, besides addressing the photographs issue with the DUP and Sinn Féin, he made a particular point of seeking clarification that the deal must include an end to criminality.
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