Colombia: Egregious Police Abuses Against Protesters.
Police Reform Urgently Needed to Prevent Future Violation.
(Washington, DC) – Members of the Colombian National Police have committed egregious abuses against mostly peaceful demonstrators in protests that began in April 2021, Human Rights Watch said today. Colombia’s government should take urgent measures to protect human rights, initiate a comprehensive police reform effort to ensure that officers respect the right of peaceful assembly, and bring those responsible for abuses to justice.
On April 28, thousands of people took to the streets in dozens of cities across Colombia to protest proposed tax changes. The government withdrew the proposal days later, but demonstrations about a range of issues – including economic inequality, police violence, unemployment, and poor public services – have continued. Police officers have responded by repeatedly and arbitrarily dispersing peaceful demonstrations and using excessive, often brutal, force, including live ammunition. Human Rights Watch has documented multiple killings by police, as well as beatings, sexual abuse, and arbitrary detention of demonstrators and bystanders.
“These brutal abuses are not isolated incidents by rogue officers, but rather the result of systemic shortcomings of the Colombian police,” said José Miguel Vivanco, Americas director at Human Rights Watch. “Comprehensive reform that clearly separates the police from the military and ensures adequate oversight and accountability is needed to ensure that these violations don’t occur again.”