Colombia: Demonstrators killed and injured, arbitrary detentions, acts of torture and sexual violence, and reports of people disappearing

Amnesty International Australia written to Australian Foreign Minister Marise Payne asking her to urge the Colombian authorities to end its crackdown on human rights during anti-tax reform demonstrations.

As the protests enter their third week, Colombian authorities must end the repression of demonstrations, cease the militarization of cities and ensure that respect for and guarantee of human rights are at the center of any public policy proposal, including tax reforms.

The alleged use of excessive and unnecessary use of force against demonstrators has resulted in dozens of people being killed and injured, arbitrary detentions, acts of torture and sexual violence, and reports of people disappearing.

Amnesty International has also signed a global petition along with 650 civil society organizations demanding a thorough investigation into human rights violations in the context of the repression, and calling on the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights to request the Colombian state’s consent to visit the country and install an independent body of experts to assist in the investigation of the events and ensure justice for the victims.

Australia has had strong diplomatic relations with Colombia since 1976, and Colombia is a founding member of the Pacific Alliance and the Forum for East-Asia Latin America Cooperation. These are opportunities to pressure Colombia into acting on this important matter.

Amnesty International urges Foreign Minister Payne to:

  • In light of the withdrawal of the tax reform bill and the announcement of a new one, call on the Colombian government to ensure that any public tax policy it adopts is designed and implemented in line with Colombia’s international human rights obligations. This means ensuring that measures are temporary, reasonable and proportionate, that less restrictive alternative measures have been exhausted, and that the genuine participation of the individuals and groups involved is guaranteed. The government should urgently undertake a human rights impact assessment of these measures to ensure that they are non-discriminatory and that they respect, in particular, the rights of historically marginalized groups, and take into account the context of the COVID-19 pandemic and its differential impact.
  • In light of the announcement of more demonstrations, call on the authorities to guarantee the Colombian people’s right to peaceful protest, and remind President Iván Duque that deploying the armed forces to control demonstrations only increases the risk of further human rights violations and crimes under international law.
  • Call urgently on Duque’s government to stop the repression and the stigmatization of protest, and to guarantee and protect all the human rights of the Indigenous and Afro-descendant people participating in the National Strike.