Colombia’s Defense Minister defended his country’s anti-riot police unit ESMAD after the United Nations urged a “profound transformation” and investigation into human rights violations.
In an interview with Blu Radio, Defense Minister Carlos Holmes Trujillo told the radio station that the unit “complies with all international norms,” which would be true if these include impaling, torture and homicide.
In its annual report on Colombia, the UN human rights office OHCHR said that it “documented an alleged arbitrary killing of an 18-year-old student in Bogota, committed by an ESMAD agent armed with a… rifle loaded with beanbag ammunition.”
The UN’s human rights office urged the government “to initiate thorough, effective and independent investigations into cases of alleged excessive use of force by ESMAD during the recent social protests.
OHCHR also calls for a thorough transformation of ESMAD, including a review of its protocols on the use of force and less lethal weapons and ammunition to bring them into line with international norms and standards.
United Nations Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights
According to Trujillo, the son of a Medellin Cartel associate, “the ESMAD complies with all international standards and even operates within the framework of statements made by the United Nations and some recommendations.”
Of course, there is always room for improvement, but it is very important for Colombians to be reassured that this anti-riot force, which exists in 125 countries, meets international, regional and national standards.
Defense Minister Carlos Holmes Trujillo
The minister lied, because Captain Manuel Cubillos, the riot police commander who admittedly murdered an 18-year-old student, is investigated by the military justice system “in violation of international standards of the protection of human rights,” the UN already said in December.
Student organizations, who led the protests, want the notoriously violent police unit dismantled entirely as hardly a protest goes by without one of them losing an eye.
None of the officers responsible for the 20 murders attributed to the unit that is not authorized to use lethal force were ever convicted.
The gross human rights violations committed by the ESMAD were not just witnessed by the OHCHR and local human rights organizations, but also scores of journalists, some of whom were physically abused while doing their job.