Bärbel Kofler, Federal Government Commissioner for Human Rights Policy and Humanitarian Assistance at the Federal Foreign Office, issued the following statement today (7 May) on the recent events in Colombia:
I am shocked by the violent clashes in Colombia in which many protesters and security officers have been killed and injured in recent days.
Peaceful protests are a part of everyone’s right to freedom of opinion and freedom of assembly, and they are a key part of every democracy. I call on the Colombian Government to guarantee the right of every Colombian to engage in peaceful protest, and to apply extremely stringent standards to police operations, in terms of the proportionality of the tools that are employed. All allegations regarding excessive use of violence by members of the security forces must be exhaustively investigated, and violations of rule-of-law principles must be rigorously prosecuted. I also condemn the use of violence by those who mingle with peaceful protesters in order to commit acts of vandalism.
I join Josep Borrell, High Representative of the European Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, in calling on all political actors and civil society to re-engage in dialogue, build trust and advance implementation of the peace process, for the benefit of all Colombians.
Since 28 April 2021, there have been countrywide demonstrations in Colombia, particularly in the city of Cali, with heavy clashes between protesters and security forces. The protests were triggered by a tax reform proposal of the Colombian Government that has since been withdrawn. According to official reports, 26 people have died so far, and 840 have been injured.
Independent observers, such as the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights and the national Obudsman’s Office, are accusing security forces of entirely disproportionate use of force against protesters. The Colombian NGO Temblores has registered 1728 cases of use of violence by security forces between 28 April and 6 May. On 5 May, Colombian President Duque called for a national dialogue process that should include all sectors of Society.