The Colombian government has clashed angrily with a delegation of trade unionists, lawyers and politicians over an alleged cover-up of a mass grave in the south of the country.
In one of his last public acts as president of Colombia, Alvaro Uribe visited an army base at La Macarena to denounce protesters at the deaths as friends of terrorism.
Nearby, a grave contains the bodies of over 1,000 people. The Colombian army has previously admitted to killing them, but has insisted they were guerillas killed in combat. But there is suspicion that they are civilians killed to inflate the tally of dead guerrillas.
Last month, pressure group Justice for Colombia led a delegation to La Macarena to take part in a public hearing. JFC said that over 2,000 locals attended and gave evidence of soldiers carrying out extra-judicial executions.
President Uribe visited the base the next day, telling officers that “the enemies of democratic security” had come to “feed calumnies against the state’s army”.
The delegation – including JFC president Jeremy Dear, Labour MP Tony Lloyd and several members of the European Parliament – responded this week: “We are shocked and insulted by such comments. Furthermore, we are deeply concerned as such allegations clearly endanger the lives of the victims, the human rights defenders and the opposition politicians that participated.”
In February, Labour MP Jeff Ennis – a member of a delegation last year – told Parliament he “strongly believed” the army was killing civilians.