Colombia: Authorities must impartially investigate the repression of protests


The Colombian authorities must put an end to the repression of social protest and the excessive use of force against protestors, guarantee the human rights of all people, and ensure that any action the authorities take is in accordance with international human rights law.

“Instead of repeating the sad scenes of violent repression that we have seen in much of the region during recent months, President Iván Duque’s government must guarantee the legitimate right to demonstrate peacefully. The Colombian authorities must put an end to the violent repression of demonstrations, including the excessive use of force and arbitrary detentions”, said Erika Guevara-Rosas, Americas director at Amnesty International.

Amnesty International believes that the participation of various sectors of society in the “National Strike” in Colombia was a legitimate exercise of their human rights. The number of people that took to the streets to peacefully protest shows the increase in social dissatisfaction towards official policy on human rights and the grave situation in which social leaders and human rights defenders find themselves in the country.

Amnesty International has verified the authenticity of video evidence confirming the excessive, disproportionate and unnecessary use of force by the Colombian security forces, which constitutes a violation of human rights by the authorities. The organization verified a video showing a member of the riot police, the Escuadrón Móvil Antidisturbios (ESMAD), intentionally kicking a demonstrator in the face. The organization has verified many videos showing the security forces firing teargas directly at demonstrators. In one, for example, ESMAD fires teargas at demonstrators who have their hands up and who are shouting “no to violence”.

Amnesty International has also verified videos showing three Bogota Metropolitan Police officers dragging a woman by the hair, as well as hitting a person in the street without any apparent justification. The organization has verified that police officers on motorcycles attacked a person for no apparent reason. Furthermore, the organization has verified that members of the security forces on horseback attacked a person who showed no sign of being able to react due to the blows they had received.

The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) has denounced the detention of at least 112 demonstrators and injuries to 40 people caused by ESMAD’s excessive use of force. The IACHR also reminded the government that deployment of the police and security forces should focus on containing violence and guaranteeing the right to protest, without any kind of direct repression or arbitrary detention of peaceful demonstrators.

Days before the National Strike, the government already began a campaign to intimidate and frighten those who were planning a peaceful march in support of their rights. At various places in the country, social actors denounced police raids conducted without due legal process. They also denounced raids at the homes of social leaders who supported the strike. Judges declared some of these raids to be illegal.

We urge the authorities to immediately halt the repression and give precise orders to the security forces to use maximum restraint when using force, which must only be used in an incremental, proportionate and differentiated way, in line with international standards. In addition, the civil and ordinary courts must investigate the conduct of those responsible for the repression and human rights violations, including those who may have ordered, consented to or ignored them.