Colombian President Ivan Duque, under pressure from the street and the international community, announced Sunday, June 6 a reform of the police blamed for its violent repression of the social demonstrations which have shaken the country since the end of April and have made more than 60 dead.
The conservative head of state said he ordered the drafting of a “Decree which will modernize the organizational structure of the national police, above all to consolidate the policy (…) in human rights ”, during a police promotion ceremony in Bogota. The president announced in particular the creation within the police force of a “Human rights department” led by an expert from outside the police.
A statement from the Ministry of Defense, on which the police forces depend in a country marked by decades of armed conflict and the fight against drug trafficking, detailed the main “Pillars” from “Reform”. In addition to the creation of a specific department for the “Prevention, protection and respect for human rights”, the project provides for a restructuring of the internal inspection services and better monitoring of “Complaints” citizens. Police training will also be reviewed, aligning with the “International standards”, with systematization of the identification badge and the pedestrian camera for officers.
This is to ensure “Professionalization so that all police officers are trained in rights [humains] and use of force “Defense Minister Diego Molano told Agence France-Presse (AFP).
However, the government did not give in to the demands of the demonstrators who demanded the total demilitarization of the police and its transformation into a civilian body.
On Twitter analyst Jorge Restrepo regretted a decision ” late “ who “Comes as confidence in the institution has deteriorated”.
Vast movement of popular anger
The Head of State’s announcement comes on the very day of the arrival in Colombia of a delegation from the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (CIDH), responsible for assessing the situation in this area over the past few years. weeks of social uprising.
Impoverished by the pandemic with more than 40% of the 50 million Colombians below the poverty line, facing an upsurge in violence, Colombia has been plagued since April 28 by a vast movement of popular anger.
The social movement, which results in more or less intense demonstrations and road blockages, first erupted against a tax reform project aimed at increasing VAT and broadening the income tax base, launched by the government in the midst of the Covid-19 pandemic. The uprising subsequently turned into calls for a political change of course for a more egalitarian society. Faced with the repression, the protesters strongly demanded an in-depth reform of the police.
At least 61 people have been killed since the start of the protest, including two police officers, according to an AFP count based on official figures. According to the prosecution, at least 20 deaths are directly linked to the demonstrations. The NGO Human Rights Watch claims to have“Credible allegations” concerning 67 deaths, including 32 “Related to events”.
The bloodiest day took place on May 28 in the city of Cali (southwest) when thirteen people were killed in clashes between demonstrators, police and armed civilians, prompting the UN to call for an independent investigation.
In May, AFP viewed some 40 videos of a scene of police repression that was condemned by the UN, the European Union, the United States and international human rights NGOs. After decades of stigmatization of social protest, associated with left-wing rebellions, young people, who did not experience the dark years of armed conflict, are no longer afraid and do not hesitate to film the repression using from their smartphones.
Already in 2020, the police provoked outrage after the death in Bogota of a 43-year-old man brutalized by police. About fifty neighborhood police stations had been attacked. Thirteen people were killed, mostly young people shot dead. Under pressure from the IACHR, the government had to ask for forgiveness.