Colombia: Murder of teacher unionists continue into 2011

published 31 January 2011 updated 31 January 2011

EI condemns the brutal murder of Colombian teacher trade unionist, Manuel Esteban Tejada, on 10 January. His assassination brings the death toll to 28 teacher unionists who have been killed in Colombia in the past year.

Manuel Esteban Tejada was affiliated to the Colombian teachers’ union, FECODE branch of Córdoba, ADEMACOR. He was a teacher at the Palma Soriana education centre.

EI has conveyed its support to its affiliate member Federación Colombiana de Educadores (FECODE) and has expressed condolences with the family and colleagues of Manuel and union leaders of ADEMACOR.

An EI report on violence against teachers in Colombia, published in 2009, shows that Cordoba, alongside Antioquia and Valle del Cauca, are the departments were the killing of teacher unionists is most prevalent.

The violation of the right to life remains an all too frequent form of political violence in Colombia. Teachers in the trade union movement represent a high proportion of the victims. It is estimated that 27 out of 46 trade unionists assassinated in 2010 were teachers. Of the 27 teacher unionists, seven have been members of ADEMACOR.

EI has joined FECODE to demand that Colombia’s Minister of Education and Interior, the Procuraduria General, and the Vice President responsible for human rights break the current cycle of impunity by taking conclusively investigating this crime and punishing those responsible with the full force of the law. EI also requests that robust measures be implemented to protect teachers and trade unionists.

EI policy has long stressed that schools should be safe sanctuaries and zones of peace.

EI General Secretary, Fred van Leeuwen, said: “It is the responsibility of governments and the international community to ensure that students, teachers, schools and universities are protected, that the perpetrators of attacks are punished and that education becomes a force for peace.

“These attacks violate the most basic human rights for students and teachers — the right to life, and the right to education.”