This summer the PASC and members of the Red de Hermandad y Solidaridad con Colombia (Redher - Colombia Friendship and Solidarity Network) will be organizing a Popular Tribunal against Colombia's extractive industry policies. The Tribunal is a chance to put foreign mining, gas and hydroelectric companies on trial for the pillage of Colombia's natural resources, as well as for fueling political violence against union members, communities affected by mega-development projects, and environmental and social activists. A series of public hearings will take place before the Popular Tribunal, including one focused on Canadian company, Pacific Rubiales Energy.
The PASC is looking for activists who wish to participate and/or cover the following events:
July 13 Public hearing against Canadian oil company, Pacific Rubiales Energy in Puerto Gaitan, Meta Department
Last two weeks of July Exchange with social organizations, peasant farmers and Colombian unions
August 3-5 Popular Tribunal against Colombia's extractive industry policy
August 8-9 International Meeting of the Red de Hermandad y Solidaridad con Colombia
Questions? Contact us!
by e-mail at info [a] pasc.ca or by phone : contact Leila Celis at (514) 424 - 8890
Interested? Please complete and send in the application form as soon as possible:
Download the application form Tribunal Summer 2013 (.doc)
And mark the following dates off on your calendar:
Introductory Evening: Thursday, May 30, 6-9pm, basement of the Commensal 1720 Rue St-Denis (Berri Metro)
Pre-departure Training : Sundays, from June 16-23, 2013
Let's target Canadian war profiteers!
Colombia vies for 1st place as the most dangerous country for union activists and 2nd place in terms of forced displacements of the population. More than 85% of internal refugees and murdered unionists come from regions with mining and petroleum development. Canada, which has signed a freetrade agreement with Colombia, is the primary country of origin for foreign investment in this sector meaning that Colombia's most important petroleum and precious metals reserves are managed through Canadian capital markets. Yet Canada has no system for regulating the activities of its businesses abroad, allowing them to exercise complete impunity as they profit from political violence in this wartorn country.
Pacific Rubiales Energy is headquartered in Toronto and is run by Venezuelan expatriates who left their country in 2002. Pacific Rubiales has several subsidiaries in the petroleum and mining sectors operating throughout Colombia and announced in 2012 that it intends to explore untapped shale gas and tar sands deposits. The company’s main operation however lies in the Campo Rubiales deposit where output reached 200,000 barrels a day in November 2012, having grown almost 50% over the past two years. The company employs approximately 14,000 workers in the Puerto Gaítan and Campo Rubiales regions of the Meta department. Pacific Rubiales actually sub-contracts its workforce, meaning that its workers live in permanent job insecurity, relying on a series of short-term (28 days) renewable contracts. Since 2011, the unfolding dispute between the company, its workers, and the local population has resulted in numerous labour and human rights violations. The company is accused of union-busting, harsh working conditions, illegal hiring practices, and low wages in contravention of both Colombian labour law and international standards set by the International Labour Organisation (ILO). Pacific Rubiales is also accused of orchestrating attacks against unionized workers, including slander, death threats, murder, and attempted murder.
For over 15 years, the Colombia Friendship and Solidarity Network (Redher) has worked with other civil society groups and human rights organisations to coordinate international campaigns against multinational companies that both perpetuate and profit from the civil war in Colombia. Much of that work has taken the form of international opinion tribunals such as the Permanent People’s Tribunal (PPT). The PPT is an independent tribunal that hears cases of human rights abuse presented by the victims themselves. The PPT was founded in June 1979 by a group of legal experts, writers, and public intellectuals.
Faced with a culture of impunity in Colombia, numerous groups representing Afro-Colombian communities, indigenous groups, peasants, organized labour, women, youth, and human rights defenders have sought a modicum of justice before the PPT. Between 2001 and 2008, and several cases were brought forward, touching on several topics including food security, mining, oil extraction, biodiversity, public services, and indigenous rights. These hearings helped expose the complicity – by act or omission – of various companies and their home governments in the Colombian state’s policies of terror and dispossession. The companies that have been brought before the PPT include Coca Cola, Nestlé, Chiquita Brands, British Petroleum, OXI, Repsol, Drummond, Cemex, Holcim, Muriel, Glencore-Xtrata, Anglo American, BhP Billington, Anglo Gold, Monsanto, Smurfit Kappa/Carton de Colombia, Multifruits S.A./Delmonte, Pizano S.A. and its subsidiary Maderas del Darién, Urapalma S.A., Dyncorp, Union Fenosa, Eaux de Barcelone, Canal Isabel II, Endesa, Téléphonique, and TQ3.
The current People’s Tribunal on the Extractive Industry in Colombia intends to carry on in the tradition of the PPT. The People’s Tribunal has two main objectives. First, the Tribunal aims to open a political space where social movements can publically expose the impacts of large-scale mining and energy projects, including impacts on labour, social, environmental, indigenous, and human rights. Second, the Tribunal aims to build a body of evidence, including reports and testimonies from victims and experts alike, that will feed into future political and legal action against the rights violations being committed by multinational companies in Colombia. The Tribunal’s final session will take place in Bogotá from august 3rd to august 5th 2013. The Tribunal will hear cases against mining, oil, and hydroelectric energy projects. The Pacific Rubiales conflict will be presented at a preliminary hearing on July 13th 2013.
How you can support the People’s Tribunal from Canada
If you are unable to attend the hearing yourself, you can support the Tribunal’s work by writing an official letter of support, spreading information about the Tribunal among allies, or by helping create media visibility for the Tribunal’s findings.
On July 13th 2013, an audience of over one hundred experts, researchers, jurists, human rights defenders, journalists, affected community members, union leaders, and workers will hear the full details of the accusations against Pacific Rubiales. Representatives of the company are also invited to respond to the various charges and testimonies. It is during this preliminary hearing that the most relevant testimonies against Pacific Rubiales will be selected for the Popular Tribunal’s final session, which will take place between August 3rd and August 5th. Communities that have been affected by Pacific Rubiales in other regions of Colombia will also be given time to present their own grievances.
The main charges that will be laid against Pacific Rubiales are violations of the Colombian labour code for the oil sector, violations of freedom of association and union-busting, infringement on freedom of the press, violations of local community members’ freedom of movement, and several counts of environmental damage.
For PASC, as well as several other Canadian organisations working in Colombia, the Pacific Rubiales hearing before the Popular Tribunal is of great importance, not only because the company itself is Canadian, but also because:
- The social, labour, and environmental conflict evolving around Pacific Rubiales has been escalating for the past two years and shows no signs of subsiding;
- Despite signing a free trade agreement with Colombia in 2011, the Canadian government seems indifferent to the violations of the agreement's commitment to international labour standards and human rights, which sends the message to other Canadian companies that these obligations can be disregarded;
- Canada is promoting the rapid growth of Colombia’s oil sector through the Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA), soon to be folded into the Department of Foreign Affairs, International Trade and Development (DFAITD), which helped re-write Colombia’s investment laws such that foreign direct investment in the extractive sector grew five-fold between 2002 and 2009;
- Countering Pacific Rubiales’ media offensive is particularly critical in the coming years as the company plans to expand operations in the Campo Rubiales oil fields and must also re-negotiate its state-issued exploitation license. Failure to put a check on the company at this juncture could lead to increased human, labour and indigenous rights violations in the future.
Why it’s important to take part in the public hearing against Pacific Rubiales
Putting together a Canadian delegation to attend the hearing will help:
- Expose the asymmetrical enforcement of national and international law with respect to multinational companies and local communities;
- Ensure Canadian and international public attention is drawn to the Tribunal at a time when most media and political attention is focused on the peace negotiations between the government and the FARC-EP, thus highlighting the seriousness of the situation;
- Guarantee the safety of the event organisers and the witnesses who will publicly testify against these companies;
- Increase the Canadian public’s awareness of the social and environmental conflicts caused by Canadian multinational companies such as Pacific Rubiales;
- Counter the misleading public relations campaigns that highlight multinationals’ “corporate social responsibility” projects;
- Expose the case of Pacific Rubiales and thus feed into ongoing public campaigns in Canada and around the world that seek to regulate the activities of multinational companies and pressure them into living up to their social obligations;
- Support the efforts of communities who are coming together to defend their rights and develop concrete proposals to put an end to corporate impunity (e.g. legal reforms similar to the US Alien Tort Act that would allow taking Canadian companies to trial in Canada for crimes committed abroad, establishing an international court to try corporations, etc.)
The Network of Brotherhood and Solidarity with Colombia - RedHer - is a space for organizing among independent Colombian and transnational organizations and collectives who share common principles of international political solidarity. The RedHer facilitates mutual aid and enrichment of resistance experiences for groups from Europe, North America, and Colombia. RedHer is committed to a negotiated political solution to the social, armed conflict and operates on two thematic axes: Fighting against impunity and repression and defending natural resources, with the goal of complete justice and the respect of sovereignty and culture. Learn more : http://www.pasc.ca/en/org/redher-0