Colombia has seen new protests over state violence after soldiers shot dead an unarmed transgender woman in the Miranda zone of Cauca on 24 September. Footage of 38-year-old Juliana Giraldo’s body lying in the car in which she’d been travelling went viral on social media, sparking public anger and raising yet more concerns over the military’s conduct with regards to human rights.
Reports said that Juliana Giraldo was driving with her partner and two other people when they were intercepted by soldiers. Witness reports said at least one soldier opened fire at the car, reportedly without warning, hitting Juliana in the head.
Mobile phone footage recorded by her partner, who was attempting to identify the soldiers, showed his distraught reaction as a crowd gathered around the car. ‘We don’t have weapons, we don’t have drugs. We have nothing. Help me, please,’ he says in the video.
Although the head of the army, General Eduardo Enrique Zapateiro, apologised via Twitter over the killing, this has done little to alleviate major alarm at human rights violations repeatedly being committed by members of the armed forces. Under President Iván Duque, who took office in August 2018, the military has been implicated in multiple killings of civilians.
Other high-profile controversies include the illegal monitoring of opposition politicians, journalists and trade unionists, and a raid on an alleged armed group in August 2019 which killed a number of children even though authorities were reportedly aware of forced recruitment of minors in the area.
The killing of Juliana Giraldo occurred just one day after Colombia’s Supreme Court declared that Colombian police, and particularly the heavily-militarised ESMAD riot police squadron, were systematically violent in their approach to fundamental citizen rights around protest and freedom of expression. On 9 and 10 September, police killed up to 13 civilians during protests over another police killing, that of lawyer Javier Ordóñez. The latest incident yet again calls into question the Colombian government’s stated commitment to human rights.