Colombia may drop charges against participants in 2021 protests

Frontline protesters from Bogota. Image: Jordan Stern

Colombia’s prosecution said it may drop terrorism and conspiracy charges filed against people who took part in anti-government protests in 2021.

The prosecution confirmed that Justice Minister Nestor Osuna formally requested a directive to protect peaceful protesters from political persecution.

At an event in Cali, Osuna said that “I know that very soon they will issue a directive that states that acts of social protest are neither terrorism nor conspiracy to commit a crime.”

“This implies that all those who are in jail will get out,” said the minister.

The prosecution lowered the expectations and said that it was still studying whether Osuna’s request was in line with “jurisprudence of the Supreme Court of Justice and international legal doctrine, mainly that of the Inter-American Court of Human Rights.”

The prosecution also clarified that it would need the approval of the courts to drop charges against those who have been formally charged.

Following a visit to Colombia during the so-called National Strike, the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) urged the prosecution to “conduct an independent and individualized review of all the charges filed against persons arrested and detained during protests and to “immediately release those who have been detained arbitrarily or without justification.”

This was ignored by former Prosecutor General Francisco Barbosa, whose office prosecuted hundreds of young people who organized so-called Frontline protest groups.

By the end of 2022, only nine people were convicted and an unknown number of people were still awaiting trial in jail.

Osuna and President Gustavo Petro have been trying to secure the release of these people, claiming that they were victims of political persecution.

Following the election of Prosecutor General Luz Adriana Camargo, the prosecution agreed to study the government’s proposal to take measures that would prevent the political persecution of people taking part in peaceful protests.

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