Multiple police human rights abuses reported during National Strike protests

Colombian human rights organisations are reporting numerous human rights abuses committed by security forces during National Strike mobilisations across the country on Wednesday 28 April. The day of action was the latest nationwide mobilisation to oppose the government’s economic and tax reforms, as well as to demand implementation of the 2016 peace agreement and end to killings of social activists and FARC former combatants.

According to the Defender la Libertad (Defend Freedom) campaign, four people lost their lives in still-unclear circumstances, with three deaths in Cali and one in Neiva. A further 49 people were injured. There were 73 arrests, 14 raids, ten acts of aggression towards human rights defenders and 78 reports of police violence.

Several people were injured as police forcefully attempted to carry out arrests in the Bogota districts of Fontibón and Suba. One young woman, Leidy Cadena, was hospitalised after police shot her in the face with a projectile outside the National Musuem in Bogota.

‘During arrests, irregular procedures were registered that do not meet established legal cause, which is why they are considered arbitrary detentions,’ said the campaign.

In the city of Neiva, in the southern department of Huila, 20-year-old student Juan Diego Perdomo Monroy died during protests, with the cause of death unconfirmed.  

Bogota councillor Heidy Sánchez reported police carrying firearms and said this was prohibited during public protests in the capital following the suspected police killings of 13 people in protests in Bogota last September.

In Cauca, Mobile Anti-Disturbance Squadron (ESMAD) agents attacked indigenous communities with teargas and projectiles as they travelled towards the departmental capital of Popayán to take part in demonstrations, according to the North Cauca Indigenous Councils Association (ACIN). Six traditional buses (chivas) were targeted, with at least one woman reportedly losing consciousness from the gas.

The CUT trade union confederation, one of the main strike organisers, reiterated calls for urgent government action to address the widespread killings of social activists and FARC former combatants.  

National Strike mobilisations are due to continue for a second day on Thursday 29 April, with further mobilisations on 1 May and 19 May. Despite an 8pm curfew in Bogota, protests are expected to continue until later. Trade unions said that protests would continue until the government’s planned tax reforms were revoked.