Colombia’s Supreme Court condemned the government of far-right President Ivan Duque on Tuesday for violently repressing peaceful anti-government protests.
In a historic ruling, the top court gave controversial Defense Minister Carlos Holmes Trujillo 48 hours to apologize for illegal attempts to violently quell peaceful protests in November.
The ruling came a day after the resumption of the protests and ongoing criticism the increasingly authoritarian Duque was abusing his power to silence opposition.
The constant disrespect for the superlative guarantees of people to exercise the right to peaceful, non-violent protest throughout the territory and the lack of state response to this situation is evident.
Court orders police reforms
The Supreme Court ordered the government to come with a proposal to reform the National Police, and specifically the ESMAD anti-riot police, whose “uncontrolled activities represent a risk, a serious and ongoing threat for those who intend to go out and mobilize to peacefully express their opinions.”
The court suspended the use of bean bag rifles that killed a protester in November and injured at least one protester on Monday.
The government additionally was ordered to issue a “statute of reaction, use and verification of legitimate state force, and protection of the right to peaceful citizen protest” that would severely limit the police’s authority to use force.
Court curtails government power
The Supreme Court ordered the president to issue a gag order that disallows public officials to stigmatize protesters or criminalize democratic opposition within a month.
This gag order is one of multiple reforms that seek to end the government’s “evident” disrespect and “systematic, violent and arbitrary” violations of Colombians’ right to protest.
The Supreme Court found that the prosecution’s illegal raids were “dissuasive and stigmatizing for those who wish to exercise their prerogative to peaceful protest” based on “a presumption of guilt as a result of stigmatization” by the government.
A nation that seeks to recover and build its democratic identity cannot locate the citizenry that legitimately protests in the rhetoric of friend and foe, left and right, good and bad, friends of peace and enemies of peace, but as the political expression that seeks to open space for dialogue, consensus and the non-violent reconstruction of the Constitutional State of Law.
The ruling is a major victory for human rights NGO’s that had demanded court interference in Duque’s increasingly violent efforts to quell protests.
Trujillo said he would “study” the court order to publicly apologize on national television, radio and on the internet.