This year, Colombian police illegally used public bus terminals in the capital Bogotá to torture and detain peaceful protesters. Anti-government demonstrations protesting the social instability since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic have been happening for months and finally gained momentum when the government used public structures to violently suppress protesters in May 2021 The police have been accused of various illegal activities. activities, including gender-based violence, the use of lethal weapons and the killing of human rights defenders, social leaders and peacekeepers.
The allegations of torture have been publicly confirmed through the support of council members and testimonies from torture survivors themselves. Diego Cancino, a member of the Bogotá council, confirmed the illegal use of Transmilenio stations and drew attention to the “abusive displacement and aggressiveness of civil power” that harmed protesters. The nation’s attorney general’s office confirmed that 21 civilians died and more than 800 were injured in protests between April 28and and June 5and, 2021. Survivors of the attacks confirmed to have been traumatized by the use of force; victim Diego Luna tells Columbia Reports that police ‘started beating [him] until they throw [him] on the floor. They dragged [him] in the hallway beating [him]. They suffocate people with gas in a small room. With these horrific testimonies put forward, it is important to analyze the role of the Colombian police and other authoritarian systems in this atrocity.
The use of police violence and torture is evidence of the decade-long civil unrest in Colombia’s systems of government. The Colombian police are a military actor and have used these tactics against peaceful protesters to suppress their human right to assemble. Citizens are struggling to continue using their voice despite the perceptible forces against them, but it has taken years of struggle to get to this violent point.
Since Iván Duque was elected Colombia’s president in 2018, the administration’s lack of political urgency in tackling social inequality, high poverty and unemployment rates has prompted mass protests. Since then, police violence has occurred in response to these protests, with the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights reporting that 133 human rights defenders were murdered between 2019 and 2020. With mismanagement of COVID-19 by the government and proposed legislation to increase taxes on basic necessities, protests have escalated. This brings us to the brutal treatment of protesters from April to June 2021. In response to verified allegations, the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights conducted a working visit to Colombia, producing numerous observations and recommendations regarding human rights violations. of man. They legitimized the allegations and recommended a complete transformation of the Colombian framework to support citizen security.
Violence has slowed in recent months, but political and social unrest is still high. It is the responsibility of the Colombian government to take urgent action to implement these recommendations, focusing on the safety of its citizens. After decades of civil unrest, there is a need to restructure state security organs and adopt accountability measures for these forces. Police violence on such a scale speaks to the need for these protests and calls into question the government’s real role in protecting citizens.