The human rights commission of the Organization of American States (OAS), has urged Colombia to investigate allegations of excessive police violence during protests in the country’s largest port city.
According to the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR), police violence that took place in the protests of the last month must be investigated and “urgent and reasonable measures to fully guarantee the rights to peaceful assembly and freedom of expression” must be adopted.
On June 2, 2017, civil society organizations and communities reported that heavily armed ESMAD personnel carried out a repressive operation in Buenaventura which included the use of tanks among civilians. Information received by the IACHR also indicates that tear gas was used against peaceful demonstrators, including children, older people, and people with disabilities.
Inter-American Commission on Human Rights
Inhabitants of Buenaventura took part in a civic strike called by the residents of the neighboring Choco province to demand an end to chronic state neglect in the city that is home to the country’s largest port.
The protests were met with severe police violence that was made public by locals who posted videos of members of the ESMAD riot police unit aiming teargas grenades at unarmed and peaceful protesters and shooting teargas into people’s homes.
Apart from an investigation into the violence that left dozens injured, the international human rights body urged Colombia to take the necessary legislative action to protect the rights of the Afro-Colombian inhabitants of the country’s Pacific coast.
According to the IACHR, the Colombian state is obligated by international law to solve the “systematic exclusion of Afro-descendants and their communities.”
The IACHR urges the State to adopt legislative measures, public policies, and coordinated institutional measures to eliminate racial discrimination, including measures to protect and guarantee the right to non-discrimination in the context of protest demonstrations.
After more than three weeks of protests, the Colombian government vowed public investment in the city of 400,000 where half of the inhabitants have no access to potable water in spite the city’s port sending $55 million in royalties to Bogota every day.
However, the government has failed to announce investigations into the allegedly racism-laden police violence taking place during the strike.
I’m in the streets hearing your people, those also under your command saying “You gotta kill those niggers, hit them hard,” that’s what they’re saying. We reject the laziness and the racism the State represents.