Canada’s Foreign Minister should read Amnesty International’s new report on Colombia
The report begins: “Since 28 April 2021, in the city of Cali, capital of the department of Valle del Cauca in western Colombia, there have been mass demonstrations. At the same time, the gravest human rights violations and crimes under international law committed in the country in this period have been concentrated in this city.”
It highlights: “Vice President and Chancellor Marta Lucía Ramírez has acknowledged that 88.5% of the demonstrations were peaceful. [And yet] the government of President Iván Duque Márquez responded by stigmatizing protesters, describing them as ‘vandals’, ‘terrorists’ and using other terms suggesting they had committed criminal offences and criminalizing them and with police repression.”
It further notes: “The evidence detailed in this report leads Amnesty International to conclude that Colombian National Police officials, particularly members of the Mobile Anti-Riot Squad (ESMAD), violated the human rights of peaceful protesters in Cali.”
Marc Garneau and Colombia
On May 9, Canadian Foreign Affairs Minister Marc Garneau stated: “Canada condemns the violence, including the disproportionate use of force by security forces, and urges that the violence cease.” That comment was quickly followed by: “We welcome the Government of Colombia’s commitment to fully investigate and hold accountable those who may be guilty of violating human rights during these events.”
By July 14, when Garneau met with Colombian Vice-President Marta Lucía Ramírez, he: “emphasized Canada’s concerns regarding violence in Colombia, both in the context of social protests and against social leaders and ex-combatants working to implement peace.” Garneau then again “called on Colombia to keep its commitment to fully investigate and hold anyone who has violated human rights to account for their actions.”
Garneau minimizes worsening situation
On May 7, just days before Garneau’s first statement on Colombia, Temblores reported that there had been 1,773 cases of police brutality since the national strike began on April 28. It also documented 28 victims with police inflicted injuries to their eyes and 11 victims of sexual assault by the public force.
Then on June 28, just a couple weeks before Garneau’s call with Ramírez, Temblores reported that there now had been 4,687 case of police brutality since April 28. It also noted that now there were 82 victims with police inflicted injuries to their eyes and 28 victims of sexual assault by the public force.
This worsening situation was not reflected in Garneau’s messaging on Colombia.
Read the Amnesty International report
Among the 22 recommendations listed at the end of the report, it calls on President Duque to: “Give an unequivocal order to the security forces to stop the violent repression.”
This would be a key message for Garneau to deliver in his next statement to Colombian government officials.
The 49-page Amnesty International report can be read here.