UN labour group urges five Governments to protect freedom of association

20 June 2005

The United Nations labour organization has urged the Governments of Cambodia, Colombia, Iran, Myanmar and Zimbabwe to protect the freedom of association in their countries and put a halt to often deadly anti-union activities.

The Committee on Freedom of Association of the International Labour Organization (ILO) drew special attention to those five countries after examining 35 cases at their May-June 2005 meeting.

In the case of Cambodia, the Committee “deeply regretted” that the Government provided only partial information about the murders of trade union leaders Chea Vichea and Ros Sovannareth, which occurred within four months of each other. It urged the Government to investigate the crimes and punish both instigators and perpetrators.

In Colombia, it said numerous murders and other acts of violence against union leaders had gone unpunished in the past few years. It deplored the effects of such impunity, both on the labour movement and society in general.

The Committee found the arrests of trade union leaders troubling in Iran, Myanmar and Zimbabwe. It requested from the Government of Iran information on charges against such leaders stemming from a Labour Day march, and urged Myanmar’s Government to take real steps toward ensuring respect for freedom of association in law and in practice.

In the case of Zimbabwe, the Committee examined allegations of arbitrary arrests and detentions, anti-union intimidation, harassment and dismissals. Reacting to the expulsion of a trade-union mission to the country, it requested the Government to admit such missions in the future. It noted “with deep concern” the trade union situation in Zimbabwe has not evolved and may have even worsened.

The report of the Committee on Freedom Association was endorsed by the ILO’s policy-making body on Friday.