Colombia: The UN calls on the government to guarantee justice and provide reparation to the victims of the protests
The Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights urged the Colombian government to change the way you deal with protests of the population to avoid more deaths and injuries of those who exercise their freedom of expression, participation and assembly.
In a report released this Wednesday, the agency indicates that between April 28 and July 31 of this year it received complaints of 63 people killed during the mobilizations of protest that began at the end of April with the National Strike. 76% of the deaths were due to gunshot wounds.
So far the UN Office has verified 46 of the reported deaths, 44 of which were civilians and two were police.
Given these events, the study highlights the State responsibility to protect human rights without discrimination, as well as the obligation to facilitate the exercise of the right to peaceful assembly.
“The Colombian state failed to maintain a safe environment for protesters on numerous occasions, “says the text.
The massive demonstrations, which began on April 28, spread for weeks across the country in a context of deep economic and social inequalities exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic.
Protesters march through the streets of Bogotá in Colombia.
Abuses by public forces
The information collected and analyzed by the Office found “reasonable grounds” to assert that at least 28 of the deaths were the work of police officers and that a minimum of ten of them would be the responsibility of members of the Mobile Anti-riot Squad of the National Police.
Ten people have been victims of non-state actors and it has not been possible to establish who killed eight more protesters due to lack of data.
According to the study, the Police used force unnecessarily or disproportionately to disperse peaceful demonstrations and blockades.
In addition, there were armed individuals who attacked the protesters, sometimes with firearms, before the passivity of the security forces.
“All those allegedly implicated in causing injury or death, including State agents, should be subject to prompt, effective, exhaustive, independent investigations, impartial and transparent, “says the document.
Repair and non-repetition
It adds that the State must also guarantee “the right of victims to reparation integral”.
The Office explains that the latter should be viewed as individual and collective reparation to honor the memory and life of the victims, guarantee non-repetition by acknowledging what happened and adequately supporting the people who were affected by the rapes and violence in the protests and who are now seeking to rebuild their lives.
Likewise, it stresses that it is imperative that the agents of the security forces respect the principles of legality, precaution, necessity, proportionality, and non-discrimination when controlling demonstrations.
Also remember that firearms should only be used as last resort in the face of an imminent threat to life or serious injury.
Disperse indiscriminately a firearms protest it is always illegal and violates international human rights standards, he emphasizes.
Added to the documented deaths are reports of 60 cases of sexual violence allegedly at the hands of the police. So far, the UN has verified 16.
The report dedicates a separate line to the criminalization and stigmatization of protesters, often through the media, who are linked to acts of vandalism or acts of terrorism.
The Office also expresses concern about the attacks on human rights defenders and journalists they have documented the events.
On the other hand, the study reports acts of violence by some protesters and condemns them, but insists that the the vast majority of protests were peaceful and highlights the decrease in tensions when there was dialogue between the authorities and the participants in the demonstrations.
To conclude, the Office recommends that the Colombian authorities take the necessary measures to ensure that institutions Those responsible for managing the protests only resort to dispersing protesters in strict compliance with international human rights standards.
In the same way, it advocates the undertaking of a broad national debate on the police reform, including the possibility of transferring the police from the Ministry of Defense to a civil authority, and for improving the internal mechanisms of supervision and accountability.
“The objective of these reforms should be guarantee the effective enjoyment of the right to peaceful assembly in Colombia ”, points out the UN Office.