Bogota, Colombia – The Colombian government used “excessive and disproportionate” force during mass protests earlier this year, the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) said in an expected report released Wednesday.
The IACHR, an autonomous body of the Organization of American States, called on the South American nation to make structural changes to its militarized police force, which has been accused of committing “flagrant” abuses against the protesters.
“The state’s response was characterized by excessive and disproportionate use of force, in many cases, including lethal force,” IACHR President Antonia Urrejola told a news conference.
The protests, known as the Paro Nacional, erupted in April as a setback a controversial tax reform project and the inequalities caused by the pandemic.
After peaceful demonstrations that provoked harsh repression by police forces, protests quickly took place. expanded in a reaction to state violence, taking the South American country for months.
Human Rights Watch has confirmed that 34 people were killed during the protests (mostly protesters and people who were present). Other activist organizations further increased the number of deaths.
Other alleged human rights violations, including sexual abuse by riot police, enforced disappearances and many injuries, led to a visit by the human rights group in early June.
The highly critical IACHR report followed a detailed investigation into the state’s response to the protests, which included testimonies from more than 500 people, including government officials, human rights defenders and victims of violence in places. of protest as the cities of Cali and Bogota.
The commission documented the indiscriminate use of firearms by police protesters and civilians not participating in protests, sexist violence and use of violence against journalists and medical staff.
He also shouted President Ivan Duquethe administration to investigate abuses and protect the right to protest.
The report was received with satisfaction by international observers such as Gimena Sánchez-Garzoli, director of the Andes of the Washington Office on Latin America, who said the report also rejects the narrative of Duque and his party that the protesters are vandals and criminals.
“They have blamed the opposition, blaming everyone and not looking inward,” Sanchez-Garzoli said. “I think this report shows that the attitude is not what the international community accepts.”
The human rights group offered more than 40 recommendations to the Colombian government, urging it above all to separate the Colombian police from the country’s army.
Like the army, Colombian police fall under the jurisdiction of the country’s defense ministry, a product of decades of armed conflict.
But this structure has led to the application of the militarized law, especially by the riot police, the ESMAD, which has been widely criticized by Colombian public and international observers.
Sergio Guzmán, Colombia’s director of Risk Analysis, said the recommendations “give credibility” to long-standing calls to demilitarize police forces.
“In a country in conflict it makes sense to have all the military and police authorities under this same chain of command, but today it is not the same,” Guzmán said.
While Duke has done so committed police reforms Guzmán doubts that the Duke administration will implement many of the suggestions made in the report, including further training of officers and different disciplinary rules for officers.
The government has already rejected several suggestions, while Duke and members of his party criticized the report on Wednesday morning, continuing to denounce “acts of vandalism” and “road cuts that violate the rights of citizens ”.
“No one can recommend that a country be tolerant of criminal acts,” the president told a group of reporters on Tuesday.
While the organizers of the protest have done so temporarily suspended the demonstrations, Guzmán predicted that there will only be more protests on the horizon if no significant changes are made.
“The underlying reasons people have for protesting are not resolved: unemployment, inequality, corruption, urban poverty,” he said. “Since there is no reform for the police, how their work is carried out, how the police protests are handled, it is likely to be a trigger for future riots.”