The FIDH denounces failure to observe orders not to shoot during protests in Colombia

Press release
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Paris, Bogotá, 15 September 2020. The FIDH has observed with extreme concern the reports by HRs organisations in Colombia on extra-judicial executions and other infringements of human rights by the indiscriminate use of lethal weapons against the civil population to break up demonstrations in the main cities of Colombia on 8, 9 and 10 September [1]. These events reveal systematic, generalised and repeated practices by the State security forces who use disproportionate force, in particular, in social protest scenarios.

We ask why, even though Bogotá Council, as the civil police authority in the city, had given the express order from the beginning of the year not to use firearms in social protests [2], the police authority deliberately disobeyed this order and these events left more than 10 people dead and more than 300 injured [3] The ban against the police authorities carrying and using firearms in protest contexts is expressly stated in instruments such as Resolution 1190 of 2017 (Social Protest Protocol), issued after an agreement process between the Ministry of the Interior and social and human rights organisations, which the National Government has not applied.

In a series of public demonstrations outside police stations on 9 and 10 September in Bogotá, Medellín, Cali and Barranquilla, members of the National Police carried out extra-judicial executions, even giving weapons to civilians to fire against the demonstrators. In the context of these protests, acts of sexual violence and other abuses by the Police Force were also denounced as were arbitrary restrictions on freedom. Acts were also recorded that went beyond the exercise of peaceful protest, such as burning public property or attacks on public servants.

We urge the application of the Social Protest Protocol and the investigation of the criminal and disciplinary liabilities of the National Police and State agents for these events, which represented a failure to observe their obligation to obey the orders of the first lady the Mayoress of Bogotá, and the adoption of the necessary measures to reform the police institution so that its procedures and practices accord with the international rules on protection of human rights.

The FIDH asks the international organisations to monitor and verify this situation so that the Colombian State respects the life, safety and freedom of expression of people who are demonstrating, and also the rights to due process, truth, justice, reparation and non-repetition of victims.

These demonstrations were triggered by acts of police abuse, torture and cruel and inhuman treatment that led to the murder of the 44-year old citizen and law student Javier Ordoñez during a Colombian Police procedure on 8 September, which was learned about through citizens’ videos. Police officers hit him and applied electric shocks when he was already lying on the ground asking them to stop, along with other people asking for them to stop. Mr Ordoñez was subsequently arbitrarily taken to a detention centre where these abusive acts continued until he was dead.

In order to verify compliance with the international obligations of the Colombian State to pursue those ultimately responsible, the FIDH makes the following recommendations:

i) that there should be an effective and genuine investigation that guarantees the rights of the victims to truth, justice, reparation and non-repetition;
ii) in particular, that the most serious crimes are not tried by the Military Criminal Courts but by the Courts of the Ordinary Jurisdiction and the Disciplinary authorities, according to the highest standards;
iii) that structural reforms of the National Police be advanced so that this will be a civil institution, subject to training and conduct protocols with comprehensive focus on human rights;
iv) that the “Protocol for coordination of actions respecting and guaranteeing peaceful protest as the legitimate exercise of the rights of meeting, public and peaceful demonstration, freedom of association, free movement, free expression, freedom of conscience, opposition and participation, including of those who do not participate in peaceful protest” (Resolution 1190 de 2017) is applied.

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