Several social organizations submitted a report to the Inter-American Court of Human Rights to denounce police violence in Colombia during the protests that began on April 28. Reports range from the deaths of protesters by the firing of police firearms to sexual violence and arbitrary detentions.
More than sixty pages that describe days and, above all, nights of horror. A report that denounces the death of 69 people since the wave of protests began in Colombia, more than 1,200 victims of physical violence and more than 300 enforced disappearances between April 28 and May 31.
It is the result of the coordination of three Colombian social organizations -NGO Temblores, Indepaz and the Program of Action for Equality and Social Inclusion (Paiis) – to report cases of abuse of power and violation of rights to the Inter-American Court of Human Rights. human rights by the security forces during the demonstrations of the National Strike, which began on April 28 and are still ongoing.
“The Colombian State has systematically failed to comply with its obligations to protect human rights within the framework of the exercise of the right to peaceful protest,” says the report, which also concludes that the Government of Iván Duque violated “the IACHR standards on regulation. , control and monitoring of the use of public force “in these contexts of demonstrations.
The IACHR’s visit to Colombia is precisely motivated by the complaints of police violence that have accumulated for weeks. At first, the Government rejected that the Court traveled to Colombia, alleging that it was the Colombian institutions that should first verify the complaints. This unprecedented refusal aroused a wave of criticism that made Duque and his Executive give in.
“Systematic” police violence to “punish” protesters
The report denounces the existence of nine “systematic” practices of violence by the Colombian public forces during the protests. “These practices show that there is an intention to violate and punish people who, in the legitimate exercise of their right to protest, have taken to the streets to demonstrate,” he adds.
According to the organizations, the police are responsible for the disproportionate and indiscriminate use of firearms; of using low-lethality weapons to intentionally injure protesters; to detain people illegally and subject them to illegal practices, such as physical violence and solitary confinement; of perpetrating sexual violence against protesters and causing the forced disappearance of protesters.
After studying and confirming the data of the three entities, the report denounces the murder of 69 people in the framework of the protests, of which 41 are allegedly at the hands of the police. Among those deaths, 20 were due to firearm shots by the security forces. In addition, 70 more people were wounded by gunshots fired by the police.
But firearms have not been solely responsible for the deaths and injuries of protesters. At least 3 people were killed by weapons considered low lethality, such as stun guns, tear gas or rubber bullets.
The report records at least 193 cases in which this weapon was directed directly against the bodies of protesters, something that violates the protocols for this type of action, after which 167 people were injured. “The repetition of these events makes it clear that they are not accidents, there is an intention to cause permanent damage,” the publication collects. At least 65 victims of eye injuries were among those injured during the marches.
Sexual violence, torture and disappearances
Also between April 28 and March 31, the organizations collected 25 cases of sexual violence by police officers against protesters, mostly women. According to the report, the attacks occurred in places such as police stations or vehicles and were perpetrated by several people simultaneously.
The places of detention have also been the scene of other types of physical violence such as “beatings and torture”, “paralegal” practices that “have become a constant,” according to the organizations’ complaint. In total, 1,649 people were arbitrarily detained and at least two of them lost their lives in these proceedings as a result of the torture suffered during detention.
In addition, the entities register 346 people who were reported as missing directly through their reporting channels. The Colombian Prosecutor’s Office numbers the disappeared at just over a hundred people.
The report highlights that all the figures for human rights violations could be higher, especially since the police have prevented cases of violence from being “properly documented.” Since the start of the protests, the organizations have counted 119 cases in which the security forces have acted to prevent a record of their actions from being left: 50 cases of harassment and retention of members of the press, 40 cases of police officers without identification and 29 cases of harassment and attacks on civilians to be recorded.
In this process of transformation of @PoliceColombia, human rights will be more prominent and clear in all areas of service and in the conduct of members. For this, there will be a renewed Police Statute and a Center for High-level Procedures Standards. pic.twitter.com/Lmt3AB4Cne
– Iván Duque 🇨🇴 (@IvanDuque) June 6, 2021
The Colombian Government has reiterated its support for the security forces and has defended on several occasions that its response to the demonstrations is proportional, especially due to the violence that they report that the police also receive during the protests.
Police violence prompted several senators to propose a motion of censure against Defense Minister Diego Molano. However, the majority of Parliament decided to support the holder of this portfolio of the Duque Government.
Precisely the complaints of human rights violations by the security forces have caused one of the main demands of the protesters to be the dismantling of ESMAD, the police anti-riot squad. Duque, for his part, announced a police reform: a gesture that, for some, is a sign that he is listening to the demands of the streets and that, for others, is a way to make up the police structure without making any substantive changes.