Police Abuses Against Protestors In Colombia Exposed By New Report
Colombian police have committed extreme abuses and acts of repression against protestors calling for better governance and less impunity. Decentralized protests against an array of social issues ranging from femicide to police brutality were sparked on April 28 under the umbrella of the anti-tax reform movement. The proposed tax hike by Ivan Duque's government would have targeted the nation's poorest and most vulnerable people, amid Duque's already failed response to the COVID19 pandemic.
According to a report by Human Rights Watch, confirmed by eyewitness accounts and live streams by protestors, human rights defenders, and bystanders, the Colombian police have engaged in extreme acts of brutality. Which include "repeatedly and arbitrarily dispersing peaceful demonstrations and using excessive, often brutal, force, including live ammunition." Police have also engaged in beatings, sexual assault (including rape), and arbitrary detention of demonstrators and bystanders. They also confirmed at least 34 deaths since the start of the protest, at least 16 protesters or bystanders were murdered with live ammunition by police, a least one victim was beaten to death by police, and three others were killed due to "inappropriate or excessive" use of teargas or flash-bang cartridges.
Meanwhile, Colombia's president Ivan Duque has repeatedly attempted to downplay the police attacks by claiming "most Colombian police respect the human rights of civilians", and he claims that "any cops who act illegally will be punished". He even announced that his government will ask Congress to approve more training and increased oversight of police. Which critics see as superficial due to the lack of accountability for the chain of command that directed recent police attacks on protestors since April 2021. Including a lack of accountability for Duque's narco linked mentor Alvaro Uribe who called for more violence by police via Twitter. Ivan Duque's government deployed regular police officers and members of the police anti-riots squadron (ESMAD) to quell the protests. On May 1, Ivan Duque also deployed the army to “assist” the police, though not to use force against protesters. On May 28, Duque increased the number of deployed soldiers, and ordered several governors and mayors to work with security forces to “adopt the necessary measures” to stop the protests and referred to protestors as urban "terrorists”.
According José Miguel Vivanco, Americas director at Human Rights Watch (HRW) , “These brutal abuses are not isolated incidents by rogue officers, but rather the result of systemic shortcomings of the Colombian police .... Comprehensive reform that clearly separates the police from the military and ensures adequate oversight and accountability is needed to ensure that these violations don’t occur again.”
Human Rights Watch (HRW) called on Colombia’s government to “take urgent measures to protect human rights, initiate a comprehensive police reform effort” to teach officers to respect protesters and bring to justice those responsible for abuses and killings.