Colombian security forces have been accused of using excessive force during anti-government protests nationwide.
Colombian President Ivan Duque has announced plans to “modernize” the country’s police force, including human rights training and increased oversight of officers, as his government faces criticism for the use of force against the protesters.
Anti-government demonstrations they have taken place all over Colombia since the end of April, when thousands took to the streets against a now-withdrawn tax reform proposal that critics said would disproportionately harm the middle and working class.
Huge rallies have continued, with protesters expanding the list of demands to include health and education reforms, among other things, while violence has increased, especially in the city of Cali, the epicenter of the protest.
The exact number of deaths related to the protests remains debated, but human rights groups say dozens of people have been killed by security forces. The Attorney General’s Office says 20 deaths are directly related to the demonstrations.
During a ceremony to celebrate police promotions on Sunday, Duque said his government would ask Congress to approve the creation of a human rights police directorate, which will seek international policy assistance, and a new education directorate for human rights. training of officers.
Duke said he ordered the creation of a “decree that would modernize the structure of the national police, especially to strengthen policy … on human rights.”
“This structure will mark the protection, prevention and respect for human rights because a human rights directorate will be created in the national police,” said the president, who added that support for human rights should be given. all institutional support “today more than ever.”
The law, which will be proposed on the first day of the next legislative session in July, would also create a new complaints system and expand disciplinary rules for officers, overseen by an independent center.
The government is also working on a law to establish criteria for legitimate use of force and another to regulate the use and sale of less lethal weapons, Duque said.
Without specifically yielding to the demands of police “reform” protesters, Duque promised a “transformation” of the police, which responds to the defense ministry.
The announcement coincides with the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) visit to Colombia to investigate protest-related violence. The commission dit plans to hold face-to-face and virtual meetings with civil society actors in the coming days.
Last Sunday, the head of United Nations rights gave voice of alarm at the recent violence in Cali, which left more than a dozen people dead at the end of last month and called for an independent investigation and accountability for the violence.
“It is essential that all those who are reportedly involved in causing injury or death, including state officials, be subjected to prompt, effective, independent, impartial and transparent investigations and that those responsible are held accountable,” Michelle said. , UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Bachelet said in a statement.
Negotiations between the Duke government and an umbrella national strike committee stopped last week, but is expected to resume on Sunday afternoon. The committee is made up of unions, student groups and other civil society organizations.
Protesters have demanded that Duque denounce the excessive force of the police and act to solve the country’s inequalities.