United Nations officials express concern about police violence and deployment of the military in Colombia

Published by Brent Patterson on

On May 4, Marta Hurtado, Spokesperson for the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, stated: “We are deeply alarmed at developments in the city of Cali in Colombia overnight, where police opened fire on demonstrators protesting against tax reforms, reportedly killing and injuring a number of people.”

Hurtado also notes: “Human rights defenders are also reporting they have been harassed and threatened.”

And she highlights: “We remind the State authorities of their responsibility to protect human rights, including the right to life and security of person, and to facilitate the exercise of the right to freedom of peaceful assembly.”

Hurtado also told reporters: “What we can say clearly is that we have received reports, and we have witnesses, [of] excessive use of force by security officers, shooting, live ammunition being used, beatings of demonstrators and as well detentions.”

The statement by Hurtado also notes that soldiers have been deployed to police the protest.

With that news, Clement Voule, the UN Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Association and Peaceful Assembly, tweeted the previous day: “As a general rule, the military should not be used to police assemblies see UNG37.”

Point 80 of General comment No. 37 (2020) on the right of peaceful assembly (Article 21) states: “The military should not be used to police assemblies, but if in exceptional circumstances and on a temporary basis they are deployed in support, they must have received appropriate human rights training and must comply with the same international rules and standards as law enforcement officials.”

The UN Special Rapporteur further notes: “I urge Colombian authorities to ensure that only adequately trained security forces be deployed to facilitate peaceful assembly in Colombia.”

The New York Times reports: “At least 19 people were killed and hundreds more injured during days of protests across Colombia… The dead include a ninth grader who went out to protest with his brother; an artist shot in the head as cameras rolled; and a teenager whose mother’s anguished cries of grief — ‘son, I want to be with you!’ — have been shared thousands of times online.”

PBI-Colombia has previously highlighted: “Social and peaceful protest is a human right, above all, disproportionate repressions cannot be justified against the civilian population, we ask for guarantees and respect for life.”

We follow this situation with great concern.

Twitter video of the military deployment in Colombia.

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