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Police violence against protesters in Colombia

10 May 2021


Police violence against protesters in Colombia

The European Center for Constitutional and Human Rights (ECCHR) is extremely alarmed and concerned about the reports on police violence in Colombia during the protests throughout the country since 28 April 2021. Videos and photos from social media have shown that the police have responded with a disproportionate use of force against protestors, many of them young men and women, including minors, who were peacefully protesting. Colombian human rights organizations have reported as of 8 May at least 47 murders –39 of which have been allegedly by the police–, 12 cases of sexual assault, 548 missing persons, and 963 illegal detentions.1

1 Temblores ONG and Instituto de Estudios para el Desarrollo y la Paz (INDEPAZ), Comunicado Conjunto Temblores Ong – Indepaz, 9 May 2021. Available at: el-paro-nacional/ (last accessed on 10 May 2021).

We reject all forms of violence by state actors and their disproportionate use of force against protestors and any other measures taken to further stigmatize the fundamental right to peaceful assembly and restrict other fundamental rights. Therefore, we urge the Colombian government to abide by its constitutional and international human rights law obligations to protect and guarantee the right to peaceful assembly and protest, as well as to investigate and prosecute those involved in these allegations, all while make all necessary reforms to avoid that these crimes continue to occur.

Currently, the increased militarization of urban areas is preoccupying and would do little to deescalate the tensions and promote dialogue between the Colombian government and civil society. Further, reports of power cuts and interruptions in internet and telecommunication services are worrying and increase the risk of those documenting and reporting crimes and human rights violations.

We stand in solidarity with Colombian human rights organizations who are supporting the protestors and those affected by these incidents. Local organizations have furthermore denounced attacks against human rights observers and defenders, which is another alarming indicator of the deteriorating of basic guarantees in the country. It is necessary that all guarantees of access to justice, free press, and due process are given to those participating in protests, including victims of police violence and human rights defenders.

While the escalation in the levels of violence from the Colombian police has reached unprecedented levels, these are not isolated incidents. Of particular concern are the actions of the Mobile Anti- Disturbance Squadron (Escuadrón Móvil Anti-Disturbios – ESMAD), a police unit in charge of controlling riots and disturbances to public order during protests. In recent days, members of the ESMAD have allegedly perpetrated 15 out of the 39 reported murders committed in the context of protests.2 In the past, during demonstrations on 9 September 2020 and November 2019 at least 17 young men were allegedly killed by the police. More generally, NGO Temblores has reported that between 2017 and 2019 there were 289 murders committed by the police in the country.3 However, impunity remains high, and little has changed in the way police operates during peaceful demonstrations.

In light of the current situation, ECCHR along with Colombian partners Colectivo de Abogados José Alvear Restrepo, Corporación Sisma Mujer, Colombia Diversa and Corporación Humanas – Centro Regional de Derechos Humanos y Justicia de Género, have submitted these allegations to the Office of the Prosecutor (OTP) of the International Criminal Court, asking Chief Prosecutor Fatou Bensouda to look into these matters to determine whether they amount to international crimes, particularly crimes against humanity, under the Rome Statute.

Since 2012 ECCHR, together with Colombian organizations, has been monitoring the situation in Colombia and submitting information to the ICC in order to push for accountability of international crimes and close impunity gaps in the country.

2 INDEPAZ, Víctimas de violencia homicida en el marco del paro nacional. Available at: (last accessed on 10 May 2021). 3 Temblores ONG. Bolillo, Dios y Patria. Available at: https://4ed5c6d6-a3c0-4a68-8191-

Reposted from Statement police violence Colombia.PDF

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