The Colombian government pledged this Thursday (11) to investigate 21 murders that occurred during demonstrations against the government, following the extraordinary visit of the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) to assess the situation. in the country after more than a month of crisis.
Colombian Vice-President and Chancellor Marta Lucía Ramírez declared that President Iván Duque was “totally determined to continue all investigations” into the causes of these deaths which occurred following the protests, as evidenced by the visit of the IACHR.
The delegation arrived in the country on Sunday (6) to analyze allegations of human rights violations in Bogotá, Cali, Popayán and Tuluá. The observers also met Duque, the prosecution, civil organizations, victims and the police command, questioned by the harsh repression of the demonstrations.
The UN, the United States, the European Union and international NGOs have denounced the serious abuses committed by the public forces. At least 61 people have died since the protests began on April 28, according to the authorities and the Ombudsman, who forwarded more than 500 allegations of human rights violations to the IACHR.
The Colombian public prosecutor says that only 20 of these deaths are directly linked to the protests. The NGO Human Rights Watch, in turn, claims to have received credible reports of 67 deaths since the start of the protests, 32 of which are linked to the protests.
Linked to the Organization of American States, the IACHR will analyze all the information received and publish “a public statement with observations and recommendations”, as informed by its president, Antonia Urrejola.
The Colombian chancellor declared that she will receive the recommendations of the commission “with the greatest desire to continue to improve, so that the Colombian state is always a state guarantor of the respect of human rights”.
Demonstrations took place daily, some days more intense than others. Initially, the acts were against the tax reform proposed by the president. Although he withdrew the bill, the violent crackdown on protests continued to fuel discontent.
Since then, actions have multiplied, without a defined agenda or direction, but with demands calling for a more just country and a more united State, guarantor of life and security.
In response to popular pressure, the Duque government has already suffered two significant losses. The first was Finance Chief Alberto Carrasquilla, who stepped down due to criticism of the proposal to raise taxes for the middle class. A few days later, it was the turn of Foreign Minister Claudia Blum.
On the very day of the arrival of the IACHR delegation in the country, the Colombian president announced a set of measures aimed at modernizing the Ministry of Defense and promoting a “global transformation” of the police.
In social media posts, Duque promised the creation of a new disciplinary statute and a new system for receiving complaints and charges to “achieve excellence” in police work. Without giving details, the president also said that “professional standards on issues such as the use of force, human rights, service to citizens and police procedures” will be implemented.
The changes also included a review of protocols for the “legitimate use of force” – something that had been questioned by protesters and human rights organizations, who saw excesses in the conduct of displaced agents for curb protests.
The Defense portfolio itself will change its name and become the Ministry of National Defense and Citizen Security. In addition, Colombian police officers will receive a new uniform, in blue, which, according to Duque, “conveys empathy, courtesy, tranquility and confidence to the citizens”.