SITU Research and Amnesty International detail the Operation Siloé police attack against vigil in the city of Cali, Colombia

Published by Brent Patterson on

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Still from Amnesty International video.

On February 25, PBI-Colombia tweeted: “Watch @amnesty and @situ_research reconstructed the May 3 massacre in Cali. Where the young Kevin Agudelo was murdered among others. The reconstruction shows the responsibility of the police in the events.”

This media release further explains: “An event reconstruction by SITU Research and Amnesty International details how Colombian security forces assaulted peaceful protesters in the Siloé neighbourhood of the city of Cali on 3 May.”

It adds: “[The Operation Siloé] joint incursion by members of the National Police, the Mobile Anti-Riot Squad (ESMAD) and the Special Operations Group of the Colombian National Police (GOES) targeted people taking part in a vigil at the La Glorieta roundabout in the Siloé neighbourhood.”

Three people, including Kevin Agudelo, died of gunshot wounds that evening.

Erika Guevara-Rosas of Amnesty International says: “We hope that the Attorney General’s Office will make advances in the investigation into the death of Kevin Agudelo and the other serious human rights violations committed during Operation Siloé.”

She further highlights: “If there is sufficient and admissible evidence against those suspected of criminal responsibility, [they should be brought] to justice in a fair trial before ordinary civilian courts. This is the first step towards building a Colombia where human rights are respected; it is imperative that impunity does not prevail for these serious crimes.”

The 6-minute video that reconstructs the events of May 3, 2021, can be seen here.

Helicopters used during Operation Siloé

Amnesty International’s Digital Verification Corps also confirmed the presence of two helicopters in the area during Operation Siloé.

Video: “Witness testimony and verified video evidence also confirms that around 9 pm two helicopters, allegedly belonging to the National Police, flew over the area and fired at demonstrators seeking refuge in houses in the neighbourhood.”

Canada sold Bell CH-135 helicopters to Colombia between 1998 to 2000 and Bell 212 helicopters to the Colombian military and police between 1994 to 1996. The Canadian Commercial Corporation, which facilitates such exports, does not conduct any follow-up to ensure Canadian-built equipment is not used to violate human rights.

Bell 212 (UH-1H) helicopter. Photo by Paul Filmer.

PBI-Colombia meets with Embassy of Canada officials

On November 29, PBI-Colombia tweeted: “Today there was an important meeting with victims of police violence accompanied by @dhColombia with the diplomatic corps [including from Canada]. Victims expressed lack of progress in the processes and constant threats against them and requested impulses in their cases to avoid impunity.”

And on December 1, 2021, PBI-Colombia tweeted: “The Canadian embassy @CanadayColombia visits the office of @Nomadesc in Cali to talk about the causes of the protests and learn first-hand about cases of police violence. Nomadesc requested guarantees that Canada does not assist the Colombian police with equipment.”

Canada’s response to police violence in Colombia

On May 9, 2021, then-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, 2021, when Garneau met with Colombian Vice-President Marta Lucía Ramírez the readout from that call noted a more generic statement: “Minister Garneau 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.”

At that time, Garneau repeated his message calling “on Colombia to keep its commitment to fully investigate and hold anyone who has violated human rights to account for their actions.”

On October 26, 2021, Mélanie Joly replaced Marc Garneau as Canada’s Minister of Foreign Affairs. We look forward to her response to the call from Amnesty International for advances in the investigation into the death of Kevin Agudelo and other human rights violations during Operation Siloé.

Photo: Prime Minister Justin Trudeau meets with President Ivan Duque, November 2021.

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