Human Rights Watch decried police abuse in attempts to quell largely peaceful protests in Colombia last year and a lack of efforts to hold these cops accountable.
The HRW report confirms previous reports by local media, lawmakers and human rights organizations, and observations made by United Nations human rights officials.
While the protests were mostly peaceful, some demonstrators committed acts of violence, including attacking police officers with rocks, looting, and burning public and private property, particularly in Bogota and Cali. In several cases, the police used excessive force against protesters, including beatings and improper use of “less-than-lethal” weapons during crowd-control operations.
Human Rights Watch
HRW Americas director Jose Miguel Vivanco was particularly concerned about “worrying accounts and evidence of abuses by Colombia’s police, including arbitrary detention and brutal beatings against peaceful protesters, detainees, and bystanders.”
None of the 104 cops formally accused of using unlawful excessive force have effectively been prosecuted while the cases of 32 of them, including the case of a police captain who murdered a student protester, were being prosecuted by the Military Justice System in violation of international human rights law.
President Duque should send a clear message that these violations will not be tolerated and the authorities should ensure that those responsible for violations are held to account.
HRW Americas director Jose Miguel Vivanco
HRW additionally expressed its concern about the expulsion of 60 Venezuelan and one Peruvian national that local human rights lawyers said were not allowed any legal assistance.
The Colombian authorities had repeatedly accused Venezuelans and the government of Nicolas Maduro of instigating the protests, without providing any evidence.
Human Rights Watch
HRW confirmed claims of the unlawful arrest of journalists covering the protests, highlighting the arrest and physical abuse of one female journalist who was covering a peaceful protest at Bogota’s El Dorado Airport and refused to surrender her cell phone.
“The officers took her to a police bus, she said, and pulled her aboard by her hair, then took her to an administrative detention unit, saying they were detaining her for her ‘protection,’ according to HRW.
The HRW is the latest in a series of reports on the police attempts to quell peaceful protests that are set to resume later this month.