Students Angrily Denounce Human Rights Abuses

News from Colombia | on: Monday, 10 October 2011

Riot police arrest a student

Riot police arrest a student

In an atmosphere of marked social mobilisation of students whose education is threatened by the proposed privatisation of public universities contained in the controversial reform to Law 30 of the Colombian constitution, the FEU national students’ union has denounced a series of recent abuses by troops of the notorious ESMAD riot police.

On the 22nd September at the Francisco Jose de Caldas District University campus in La Macarena, students were confronted by riot police and violently repressed. Initially local media and the police reported that students had tried to steal weapons, and this had been the cause of the violence. Later these allegations were withdrawn. During the repression the ESMAD used stun grenades which injured 8 minors, and also arrested another 3 minors, as well as 11 adults. Students reported all kinds of threats, as well as the attempted rape of one young student by ESMAD troopers.

On the 20th September in the University of Pamplona, ESMAD troops stormed the university buildings which had been peacefully occupied by students protesting against the reform of Law 30. The ESMAD troops launched their attack at dawn, injuring dozens of students. Following the assault, army troops occupied the buildings.

The FEU also reports that a student march in Pereira Technical University was violently repressed, and that Santander Industrial University has been under virtual military occupation for several months.

In the Atlantico University students reported paramilitary graffiti threatening those participating in the demonstrations in an effort to intimidate students. Student complaints were met with allegations that university CCTV was not working near the graffitied areas. The Atlantico University has long suffered from paramilitary attempts to take over the administration and control the university budget. Neither in this case, nor in those outlined above did university authorities condemn the abuses committed by the police.

Students are now demanding that the government answer for these and other abuses, as well as demanding that the ESMAD be disbanded for its “excessive and inhumane behaviour when repressing legitimate social protest.”

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