UN condemns police shooting of Colombian graffiti artist

The United Nations Office for Human Rights in Colombia, has sent an open letter to the Prosecutor General’s Office condemning police responsibility for the death of young graffiti artist in Bogota, August 19, 2011.

“The Office has followed the case, and through its monitoring work found evidence indicating excessive use of force by the public servant who caused the death of the child,” the UN office stated in the letter.

Furthermore the High Commissioner and other human rights bodies of the United Nations have recommended the Colombian state step up efforts to investigate, prosecute and punish those involved.

The police affirmed that Diego Felipe Becerra was killed by an officer following an attempted armed robbery of a bus, however this claim remains shrouded in uncertainty.

The autopsy report revealed that Becerra was shot in the back from close range supporting family claims that he was killed while he attempted to hide from the officer.

The Bogota police chief has denied this claim insisting that the police responded to a reported armed robbery and that an armed Becerra confronted officers when they arrived.

General Francisco Patiño claims that two officers arrived at the scene and when one pursued Becerra “it seemed that the young man was going to shoot” so the officer responded.

The autopsy report also revealed that the victim had paint on his hands when he was killed, supporting the claim of one of Diego’s friends that the police arrived to reprimand the youths for painting graffiti on Boyaca Avenue, as reported by Semana.

The officer responsible was identified and removed from duty following an investigation by the Prosecutor General’s Office in August.

The family continue to raise important questions surrounding the death of the boy. “Why, if the young man was preparing to shoot, was his back to the officer?

“Why, if the group of youths were involved in an armed robbery, were the boy’s friends not arrested, especially since one of them travelled with Diego to the hospital where, he was face to face with the police? Why has nobody heard from the passengers of the bus who were the alleged victims of the supposed robbery?” they asked in an interview with Semana.

In August, Colombian newspaper El Espectador reported that they had spoken to the bus driver involved, and he recognised Diego as the armed robber.

“I saw his face in the newspaper and it seems that I saw him through the glass [of the bus window] and he told me to move slowly or he would shoot,” said the bus driver, who did not want to be named.

Despite this claim the boy’s father remains convinced of his son’s innocence, “I want to make it clear that he was not stealing, he was not a criminal,”.

While the truth remains uncertain, UN condemnation is sure to increase the urgency and interest surrounding the ongoing investigations into the shooting.

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