Colombian police killed 11 protesters, new report (Dec. 14, 2021)
Colombian police were responsible for the deaths of 11 protesters during anti-police protests in Bogotá in September of last year. “It was a police massacre,” wrote Carlos Negret, a former Colombian ombudsman who led an independent investigation backed by the mayor of Bogotá’s office and the United Nations. (See yesterday's briefs.)
Negret and a team of researchers blamed the deaths on an institutional failure to instruct officers not to use firearms against the crowds, and on a response that prioritized the protection of police stations over the lives of officers and protesters. They described the violence as “one of the most serious episodes of violations against human rights in the history of the city of Bogotá.”
According to the report’s authors, 75 people were injured by firearms during the three nights of protests. Police officers were also filmed destroying private property. Seventeen police stations in Colombia’s capital were set on fire and destroyed by protesters.
The protests started after Javier Ordóñez killed by police who detained him for breaking a Covid-19 lockdown. A video shared on social media that day showed him pinned to the ground, pleading for relief as two police officers shocked him repeatedly with a stun gun. “Please,” he begged. “No more.” He later died of a blow to the head suffered while in police custody. (See post for Sept. 10, 2020.)
Most of the deaths occurred in poorer neighborhoods of the city, leading investigators to conclude in the report that “there exists a criminalization of poverty by the state forces, which unleashed authoritarian and illegal actions against residents of certain social sectors.”
The investigation was carried out at the request of Bogotá’s mayor, Claudia López, and was supported by the UN development program. “Who should assume political responsibility?” asked López in a response included in the report. “Me, to begin with, but also the police and president [Iván Duque].”
Alejandro Lanz, co-director of Temblores, a local police violence watchdog, said the report showed systemic failures in the justice system which have allowed responsible police officers to escape prosecution and punishment.
Earlier this year, the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights accused Colombian security forces of using "disproportionate and excessive force" on protesters demonstrating against a series of issues ranging from income inequality and allegations of police brutality. Starting in April, the protestors were met with violence that left at least 25 people dead. Eleven of those deaths involved police forces, according to the Colombian Interior Ministry.
(Guardian, CNN, Washington Post, Al Jazeera)
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