Members of Colombia’s feared ESMAD riot unit must take compulsory courses in human rights, the country’s State Council ordered while convicting the unit for killing a student during a protest.
The ESMAD unit is one of Colombia’s most feared and loathed police units, because of recurring reports of police brutality and excessive violence in the curbing of social protest.
In the last month alone, the unit was accused of throwing teargas into people’s homes and aiming at protesters’ bodies when western Colombia rose up and protested peacefully to demand an end to chronic state neglect and violence.
In Bogota, the unit used teargas and water cannons to break up a month-long peaceful protest of teachers demanding structural investment in the country’s substandard education system.
In the ruling condemning the execution of a student protester in Cali in 2005, the National Government was ordered to submit each of the country’s riot police units to compulsory schooling on human rights, after reminding authorities that public manifestations are Colombians’ constitutional right.
The mere taking part in a civilian protest does not represent a transgression of legal order since the inhabitants [of Colombia] have the right to express their dissent to measures adopted by state authorities.
Council of State
The court also urged the Prosecutor General’s Office to re-open the homicide investigation that was closed before going to court, but is now investigated by the Inter-American Commission for Human Rights of the Organization of American States.
The damage that result from this kind of reproachable behavior must be known, judged and repaired before civilian justice, before submitting the victims of the armed conflict to the wearisome burden of demanding a conviction in international courts., in addition to the fact that this circumstance leaves the Colombian justice system ill-served and is portrayed before the international community as an instance lacking efficiency, suitability and social legitimacy.
Council of State
Colombia’s Congress last year debated a proposal to disband the controversial unit, but the bill never made it to the final vote.