10/12/14

December 10, 2014: Colombian trade union leader Huber Ballesteros receives Belgian Human Rights Award

Brussels, December 9. On the eve of international human rights day, 200 people gathered in Brussels to show their support to activists in the South. The Stop the Killings platform held a discrete torch vigil, followed by a human rights award ceremony in the Brussels Beursschouwburg.
Huber is a symbol for those who fight on a daily basis for basic labor rights

Stop the Killings is a Belgian action platform of 56 organizations including trade unions and various non-governmental and social organizations. As repression against trade union militants, activists, journalists and lawyers in countries like the Philippines, Colombia and Guatemala continues, they aim to draw special attention to the subject each year. This year they have done so through the Human Rights Award.

 

We got the attention of the Belgian press with our action. Metro, Le Vif Express, MO* and De Wereld Morgen covered our act of solidarity.

Member organizations of the platform could introduce a nominee for the Human Rights Award. Four nominees were withheld: Huber Ballesteros, vice-president of the Colombian trade union Fensuagro and in jail since August 2013; the trade union members of NXP semiconductors Plant Workers Union of the Philippines for their successful struggle; Rubén Herrera, a Guatemalan environmental activist and indigenous leader. Philippine army general Jovito Palparan was also nomineed, as Human Rights Violator of the year.

 

756 people cast their vote in a public poll. A jury had the final say. This jury was composed of prominent public society figures such as Serge Beel (11.11.11), Jacques Debatty (CNCD), Bieke Purnelle (Dewereldmorgen), Jean-Francois Pollet (Demainlemonde), Khadija Khourcha (ACV/CSC) and Werner Van Heetvelde (ABVV).

 

Protesters gathered around 6pm at Brussels Central Station for a symbolic action. From there, they discreetly marched to the Beursschouwburg, where the Human Rights Award was handed out at 7pm. After a brief introduction by Luis and Emilie of the action platform, the jury handed out the award.

 

The award goes to Huber Ballesteros, vice-president of Colombian trade union Fensuagro. Huber was arrested during a national strike in August 2013. To this day he is still being held in prison, along with 150 of his union’s militants. Colombia continues to be the most dangerous country for trade union members. The international campaign for Huber’s liberation is essential, and wishes to convey the message to the Colombian authorities that social organizations should be protected rather than threatened. We hope this award can contribute to this goal.

 

Edwin Castaño, president of the Colombian petroleum trade union USO, was present to accept the award in name of its sister union Fensuagro and Huber Ballesteros. He thanked everyone present and highlighted the importance of this type of international solidarity campaigns.

 

The evening was rounded off with a bit of music. Once again, the member organizations of the ‘Stop The Killings’ platform managed to mobilize hundreds of people for this action day.

 

More information on: www.stopthekillings.be

 

Special thanks to Jacques Van der Borght (Wereldsolidariteit) for taking pictures and shooting a short videoclip.

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