UPDATE: Partial Victory in Colombia follows Bogotá Massacre by Police

Colombia masses continued mobilizing to demand justice for Javier Ordoñez, killed by the police on September 10, 2020, and to stop police brutal repression of the ensuing uprising. On September 11, 2020, the AFGJ responded immediately requesting our partners and supporters to voice our outrage over the murder of Javier Ordoñez, and the brutal repression of protesters by the ESMAD riot police. As of September 13, the number of detainees was 65, the total of deaths by the police was 14, and 265 people had been hurt. Bogota lived 48 hours of terror during the last two days. The generalized used of arms by the police and the attacks with tankers, tear gas pumps, and stun bombs were widely documented and denounced. Human rights defenders were intimidated, some were attacked by the police and not allowed to enter areas where the protesters were surrounded with no clear ways to disperse, putting in danger kids, entire neighborhoods, and street vendors. Similarly, the presence of paramilitary style forces and private security were also documented. In other cities, the presence of the police was disproportionately greater than of the protesters, and in others the heavily armed Group of Special Operations (GOES).

As a response to the protesters and the international pressure, the National Director of the Police and the Director of the Police of Bogota admitted their responsibility of violent acts. The Minister of Defense, and of the Interior asked forgiveness to the families of the victims and announced investigations of approximately 65 members of the police with the opening of 41 cases. Both Ministers announced a police reform that started next year and affirmed that the police will continue under the Minister of Defense.

We at AfGJ have reviewed the proposed reforms, and while we must regard these developments and the de-escalation of the crisis as partial victories, there are several troubling components. These include proposals for Colombian police to look to other countries as models and for human rights training. Unfortunately, we know that Colombian police already have a record of looking to the United States, first, and also to other nations, including Israel, as models and sources of training. In turn, Colombian police provide training internationally and especially in Central America and Mexico. We fear that this proposal is a means of assuaging and co-opting popular demands and will only strengthen and refine the repressive capabilities of Colombia’s police.

Yesterday, the Mayor of Bogota, Claudia Lopez, celebrated a ceremony of forgiveness and reconciliation. Lopez denounced the police brutality and demanded justice for the victims and strongly requested a radical and in-depth reform of the police.

AfGJ will continue monitoring this situation and will plan additional actions to support the demands of the Colombian people. Currently, we are working on the analysis of the Police reform.

Thank you for taking this action calling on the government of the United States, to stop all funding, arms sales, and advice to ESMAD.

Your support matters. Your Solidarity Matters. Together, we can work for change.

Send an email to Colombian authorities and international human rights defenders: No More Massacres in Colombia!