A group of EU parliament member are calling for an investigation of alleged secret operations conducted by the Colombian intelligence agency (DAS) in Europe. According to recently released documents, the Colombians are trying to undermine the authority of the European Parliament, and the UN‘s High Commissioner for Human Rights office.
“There should be a full police and judicial investigation of the alleged crimes.”
Recently released documents, confiscated from the DAS by the Colombian Attorney General‘s office, highlight the nature of “Operation Europe.” Its objective is to neutralize the influence of the European judicial system, the European Parliament’s human rights sub-committee, and the office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights.
The process of discrediting these institutions should be carried out by waging a “legal war,” the documents show.
The information about the Colombian agency’s activities, targeting national and international human rights defenders, NGOs and democratic organizations, surfaced for the first time in early 2009.
“‘Operation Europe” is supposed to be only one part of a broader DAS operation that includes phone tapping and intercepting emails.
Former Colombian right-wing President Alvaro Uribe moved to stem the criticism by introducing legislation late last year to overhaul the controversial agency, but the legislation has yet to be approved by the country’s lawmakers.
But the group of European MPs, (primarily from the European Parliament’s Green group), fears that the illegal surveillance and threat-making against Bogota’s critics may continue, only under a different guise.
Their concerns are backed up by, among others, the Colombian Commission of Juristsa, a group of legal activists that says the law does not “establish adequate, effective and independent oversight of intelligence activities.”
Green MEP Ulrike Lunacek is one of those to have put questions to the European Commission and Council of Ministers, but said the answers she received were “not satisfactory.”
Responding to queries last month, the EU commission said it was “well aware of the reports relating to alleged illegal spying by the DAS” and that it had raised the matter with the Colombian authorities on several occasions.
The EU executive body added that it has faith in the current investigation being carried out by the Colombian Prosecutor General’s Office and the Attorney General’s Office, and have been informed of the legislation to liquidate the DAS and set up a new agency.
However. others want more:
“There should be a full police and judicial investigation of the alleged crimes,” centre-left MEP Richard Howitt says.
“All of us at member-state level and within the European institutions should take full responsibility for making sure such investigations are conducted.”
Free Trade Agreement In Jeopardy
“The Spanish government is very in favor of the free trade agreement with Colombia, and they don’t want anything to jeopardize that,” the Austrian deputy told the EUobserver.
But the Belgians will take over the EU presidency on July 1th; “and they have citizens that have been proven to have suffered phone tapping by the DAS,” the Austrian deputy adds.
EU Adviser Considered A Terrorist
One of the Belgians who claims to have been a victim of DAS activities is Paul-Emile Dupret, a political adviser to the European Parliament’s left-wing United European Left (GUE) group.
“My name is mentioned on the DAS file several times,” he says, believing it to be a result of his involvement in the organization of an anti-Uribe protest in 2004 when the Colombian ex-President visited the European Parliament.
Several months after the protest, Mr Dupret was arrested upon landing in the United States.
“I was interrogated when I arrived, put in prison for 24 hours, asked dozens of questions about by views on Colombia,” he says.
“Since then I have been prevented from returning to the US. They now consider me a terrorist.”
Certain European NGOs also claim to have been the target of a campaign to discredit their activities and tarnish their reputations.
Among them, the Belgian faith-based NGO Broederlijk Delen, whose representative Patricia Verbauwhede attended a press conference in parliament this week.
“The EU needs to make a statement on the DAS. We request an investigation of the DAS on European soil and we feel the EU should not conclude its free trade agreement with Colombia,” she says.
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