Human rights defenders announced to be suing the Colombian state for the alleged use of excessive force in clashes with demonstrators involved in mostly rural anti-government protests.
Since the beginning of the agricultural strikes and protests almost two weeks ago, both strikers and the anti-riot police (ESMAD) have reported multiple instances of violence, injuries and deaths.
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After a recent flood of photos and videos were posted on Youtube, Facebook and Twitter documenting ESMAD officials stealing from workers, beating unarmed protesters and using excessive force on strikers, attorneys plan to file a lawsuit against the Colombian government while citizens and government officials alike are finally demanding answers.
— Juan Pablo Roldan (@juanpa_95) August 29, 2013
The first lawsuit arose due to alleged instances of unnecessary brutality on the part of ESMAD that caused the death of a protester after a skirmish between the anti-riot police and protesters on Tuesday evening in the town of Facatativa, Cundinamarca.
“We will seek to identify what were the motives that killed Triana, and second, we will make it seen how the fact of excessive force caused the death of a farmer,” representing attorney Victor Hidalgo told press.
In addition, last Sunday in Cairo, Valle del Cauca, ESMAD units were accused of indiscriminately using tear gas, stun grenades, buckshots, rubber bullets, marbles used as projectiles, and pressurized hoses on strikers only after the victims were blown to the ground by unidentified explosives, according to activist radio station Macondo. At least ten were reported injured including a 13-year-old boy who required his lower leg amputated.
Cali newspaper El Pais confirmed these reports.
“The situation is very delicate. It goes to show that there aren’t just farmers going out to protest, but there are infiltrators. There are people handling explosives that are not farmers, and are just trying to instigate things in the name of protests,” a regional army commander told the paper.
Radio Macondo maintains that regardless of who were responsible for the explosives in question, the excessive force used after the fact on the unarmed and downed workers was unacceptable and that further injury could have been avoided.
The combination of videos, an impending lawsuit and many reports all claiming unnecessary abuse toward striking farmers has received the attention of the government and will be discussed by the Senate, said the Colombian government.
Congress will debate on the brutality claims after being asked to do so by the Green Party, which is demanding answers from the police and the minister of defense.
“We do this with the intention of conserving our institutions, and to get the opportunity to listen to what has happened with the protesters in this country,” said Senator Jorge Londoño.
ESMAD has justified their actions thus far by claiming that the protesters have been attacking them, and that their police force has suffered almost 300 serious injuries due to the strikes. The Green Party asserted that regardless of the validity of the claims, such reasons do not warrant abusing the protesters, according to newspaper El Espectador.
Colombia’s Ombudsman’s Office and the Prosecutor General’s office have asked for an investigation of these allegations as well.
- Gobierno, a responder por abusos del Esmad en paro agrario (El Espectador)
- Denunciarán abuso de la fuerza por parte del Esmad en paro agrario (El Espectador)
- Anuncian primera demanda contra el Estado por muerte de campesino en medio del paro (Caracol Radio
- Paro agrario: enfrentamientos dejan diez heridos y buses quemados en Cauca (El Pais)
- Esmad, el grupo de la Policía que está en la primera línea de fuego (El Pais)
- A LA COMUNIDAD NACIONAL E INTERNACIONAL: INFORME ESPECIAL (Radio Macondo)
- Senado debatirá abusos del Esmad en el paro agrario (Vanguardia)