The Colombian government pledged this Thursday (11) to investigate 21 murders that occurred during protests against the government, at the end of 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 said that President Iván Duque is “totally committed to continuing all investigations” into the causes of these deaths that occurred as a result of the protests, as evidenced after the visit by the IACHR.
The delegation arrived in the country on Sunday (6) to analyze allegations of human rights violations in Bogotá, Cali, Popayán and Tuluá. Observers also met with Duque, the Public Ministry, 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 denounced the serious excesses committed by public forces. At least 61 people have died since the protests began on April 28, according to authorities and the Ombudsman, which has delivered more than 500 allegations of human rights violations to the IACHR.
The Colombian Public Ministry claims that only 20 of these deaths are directly related to the protests. The NGO Human Rights Watch, in turn, says it has received credible reports of 67 deaths that have occurred since the protests began, 32 of which are linked to the demonstrations.
Linked to the Organization of American States, the IACHR will analyze all the information received and issue “a public statement with observations and recommendations,” as informed by its president, Antonia Urrejola.
The Colombian chancellor stated that she will receive the commission’s recommendations “with the greatest willingness to continue improving, so that the Colombian state is always a state that guarantees respect for human rights.”
Protests have been taking place daily, with 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, the acts have multiplied, without a defined agenda or direction, but with demands that demand a fairer country and a more solidary State that guarantees life and security.
In response to popular pressure, Duque’s government has already suffered two high-level casualties. The first was the head of Finance, Alberto Carrasquilla, who left office due to criticism of the proposal to raise taxes for the middle class. Days later, it was the turn of the Minister of Foreign Affairs, Claudia Blum.
On the same day that the IACHR delegation arrived in the country, the Colombian president announced a set of measures to modernize the Ministry of Defense and promote “comprehensive transformation” of the police.
In publications on social networks, Duque promised the creation of a new disciplinary statute and a new system for receiving complaints and accusations 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, citizen service 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 to curb protests.
The Defense portfolio itself will change its name and will 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, “transmits empathy, courtesy, tranquility and confidence to citizens”.