Wednesday

25th Apr 2018

Allegations of secret Colombian plan to undermine EU

A group of MEPs is calling for action as further details of an alleged covert operation conducted by the Colombian intelligence agency (DAS) continue to emerge, with one of its reported aims being to undermine the authority of the European Parliament.

Recently released documents that were confiscated from the DAS by the Colombian Attorney General's office highlight the nature of "Operation Europe."

Thank you for reading EUobserver!

Subscribe now for a 30 day free trial.

  1. €150 per year
  2. or €15 per month
  3. Cancel anytime

EUobserver is an independent, not-for-profit news organization that publishes daily news reports, analysis, and investigations from Brussels and the EU member states. We are an indispensable news source for anyone who wants to know what is going on in the EU.

We are mainly funded by advertising and subscription revenues. As advertising revenues are falling fast, we depend on subscription revenues to support our journalism.

For group, corporate or student subscriptions, please contact us. See also our full Terms of Use.

If you already have an account click here to login.

  • The alleged action in Europe includes phone tapping and the interception of emails (Photo: Flickr.com)

Its objective was to "neutralise 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," reads one text seen by this website.

Following lines suggest the process of discrediting these institutions should be carried out by waging a "legal war."

News of the Colombian agency's activities targeting national and international human rights defenders, NGOs and democratic organisations, of which 'Operation Europe' was only one part, first broke in the Colombian media in early 2009.

As the scandal grew, former right-wing President Alvaro Uribe finally moved to stem the criticism by introducing legislation late last year to overhaul the controversial agency, although it has yet to be approved by the country's legislature.

But a group of MEPs, primarily from the European Parliament's Green group, are not satisfied, fearing that the reported campaign of close surveillance and threat-making against Bogota's critics may simply continue under a different guise.

Their concerns are backed up by the Colombian Commission of Jurists, among others, 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."

In responding to the queries last month, the commission said it was "well aware of the reports relating to alleged illegal spying by the DAS" and has 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 has been informed of the draft law to liquidate the DAS and set up a new agency.

Others want more, however.

"There should be a full police and judicial investigation of the alleged crimes," said centre-left MEP Richard Howitt. "All of us at member-state level and within the European institutions should take full responsibility for making sure such investigations are conducted."

Hopes for the Belgian Presidency

Unhappy with the current level of action, Ms Lunacek says she has greater hopes for the next six months, with Spain set to hand over the reins of the EU's rotating presidency on 1 July.

"The Spanish government is very in favour of the free trade agreement with Colombia [initialed in May], and they don't want anything to jeopardise that," the Austrian deputy told EUobserver. "But then the Belgians will take over the presidency and they have citizens that have been proven to have suffered phone tapping by the DAS."

One of those Belgian citizens who claims to have been a victim of DAS activities is Paul-Emile Dupret, a political advisor 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 partially the result of his involvement in the organisation of an anti-Uribe protest in 2004 when the 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."

The close ties between Washington and Bogota are well known.

The Belgian citizen is currently working with a group of other victims and a team of lawyers, and plans to present their collective case against the Colombian agency in the Belgian courts this July, the first European citizens to do so.

Certain European NGOs also claim to have been the target of a concerted campaign to discredit their activities and tarnish their reputations. Amongst them is 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," she said. "We request an investigation of the DAS on European soil and we feel the EU should not conclude its free trade agreement with Colombia."

So far the sought-after strong statements and investigations have not been forthcoming.

Feature

Hungary activists defiant after 'Soros Mercenaries' attack

Immediately after Orban's landslide victory in April, a list of so-called 'Soros mercenaries' was published by pro-government media. Those on it - mostly human rights defenders, activists and Orban critics - are now anxious but vow to continue.

Feature

'Flobert' guns - Europe's latest terror loophole

Project Safte, an international research project funded by the European Commission, has revealed a loophole in the EU firearms directive that is being exploited by criminals and possibly terrorists.

News in Brief

  1. UN expects over $4bn in pledges for Syria
  2. Commission wants more public data made available for reuse
  3. Study: Brexit will hit all European farmers
  4. European media face rise in 'verbal violence' from politicians
  5. Greenland PM to keep power despite poll slump
  6. Commissioner optimistic on FYROM name solution
  7. Italian court keeps NGO migrant rescue boat docked
  8. German Jews warned not to wear skullcap in public

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Sustainable Energy Week 2018"Lead the Clean Energy Transition"- Register and Join Us in Brussels from 5 to 7 May
  2. EU Green Week 2018Green Cities for a Greener Future. Join the Debate in Brussels from 22 to 24 May
  3. Nordic Council of Ministers12 Recommendations for Nordic Leadership on Climate and Environment
  4. Macedonian Human Rights MovementOxford Professor Calls for an End to the Anti-Macedonian Name Negotiations
  5. ACCAPeople Who Speak-Up Should Feel Safe to Do So
  6. Mission of China to the EUProgress on China-EU Cooperation
  7. Nordic Council of MinistersWorld's Energy Ministers to Meet in Oresund in May to Discuss Green Energy
  8. ILGA EuropeParabéns! Portugal Votes to Respect the Rights of Trans and Intersex People
  9. Mission of China to the EUJobs, Energy, Steel: Government Work Report Sets China's Targets
  10. Martens CentreJoin Us at NET@WORK2018 Featuring Debates on Migration, Foreign Policy, Populism & Disinformation
  11. European Jewish CongressKantor Center Annual Report on Antisemitism Worldwide - The Year the Mask Came Off
  12. UNICEFCalls for the Protection of Children in the Gaza Strip

Latest News

  1. Whistleblowers could be enforcers of rule of law in Europe
  2. EU shelves Macron idea for 'European Darpa'
  3. Don't play EU 'games' with military HQs, ex-forces chief says
  4. EU had a plan for Jordan - now it's time to make it work
  5. Time for EU to take charge of global health research agenda
  6. EU in race to set global Artificial Intelligence ethics standards
  7. Juncker delays air quality action due to busy agenda
  8. Spain makes bid for EU naval HQ

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Mission of China to the EUForeign Minister Wang Yi Highlights Importance of China-EU Relations
  2. Nordic Council of MinistersImmigration and Integration in the Nordic Region - Getting the Facts Straight
  3. Macedonian Human Rights MovementMacedonians in Bulgaria Demand to End the Anti-Macedonian Name Negotiations
  4. Counter BalanceThe EIB Needs to Lead by Example on Tax Justice
  5. ILGA EuropeTrans People in Sweden to be Paid Compensation for Forced Sterilisation
  6. International Partnership for Human RightsThe Danger of Standing Up for Justice and Rights in Central Asia
  7. Mission of China to the EUChina and EU Must Work Together to Promote Global Steel Sector
  8. Swedish EnterprisesEU Tax Proposal on Digital Services Causes Concern for Small Exporting Economies
  9. European Jewish CongressCondemns the Horrific Murder of Holocaust Survivor Mireille Knoll in Paris
  10. Mission of China to the EUAn Open China Will Foster a World-Class Business Environment
  11. ECR GroupAn Opportunity to Help Shape a Better Future for Europe
  12. Counter BalanceControversial Turkish Azerbaijani Gas Pipeline Gets Major EU Loan