Rights commission blasts Colombia over ‘lethal’ protest response

Bogota – The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights hit out on Wednesday at Colombia’s “disproportionate” and “lethal” response to anti-government protests that broke out just over two months ago.

At least 60 people have died since the protests began on April 28, according to the ombudsman’s office. The Commission’s 48-page report, prepared following a June 6-10 visit by its representatives, detailed allegations of human rights violations.

“The Commission finds that repeatedly, in different regions of the country, the State’s response was characterized by an excessive and disproportionate use of force. In many cases the action included lethal force,” said the Commission president Antonia Urrejola during a virtual press conference from Washington. Having spoken to 500 witnesses, the Commission issued several recommendations, including that the government respect the right to protest, an “immediate end to the use of disproportionate force,” separating the police from the defense ministry, and an end to a ban on “road blocks as a general form of protest.”

The Commission also called for the protection of journalists, who are often the target of attacks, and to compensate victims. The protests had been 89 percent peaceful, the Commission said. Colombia President Ivan Duque insisted he was “respectful of peaceful protest” but not “vandalism, low intensity urban terrorism or road blocks.”

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