WOLA: Advocacy for Human Rights in the Americas

Police Violence in Colombia: The Brutal Response to a Month of Ongoing Social Protests

2:00 p.m. - 3:00 p.m. EDT Friday, 28 May 2021

(AP Photo/Ivan Valencia)

The Washington Office on Latin America (WOLA), Latin America Working Group (LAWG), Temblores ONG, Colombia Human Rights Committee, and International Institute on Race, Equality and Human Rights cordially invite you to the following webinar:

May 28 marks a month of ongoing social protests in Colombia. Ignited by a now-withdrawn tax reform plan, the current wave of protests—which quickly converged longstanding grievances of multiple sectors of Colombian civil society—was met with brutal police violence and repression. Though the Iván Duque administration depicts the police response as reasonable, pointing to cases of vandalism and criminal activity as justification, the disproportionate and brutal actions of the police—particularly crowd control police the Mobile Anti-Disturbance Squadron (ESMAD)—have resulted in widely reported and verified human rights violations and further plunged Colombia into crisis.

According to Temblores ONG, a leading Colombian human rights organization that vigilantly tracks cases of police violence, at least 43 people have been killed presumably by the actions of police, hundreds have been wounded, and over a thousand arbitrarily detained. Scores of videos and victim testimonies have demonstrated the police’s heavy-handed response against people out on the streets, with indications of police shooting projectiles into people’s faces; using tear gas and stun grenades against demonstrators; arbitrarily detaining people, many of whom are yet to be located; sexually abusing people; and indiscriminately shooting live ammunition into crowds of people.

Rather than acknowledge these abuses, the Duque administration has failed to show willingness to cease the police violence, begin processes to secure accountability, and establish a meaningful and holistic national dialogue. At this critical moment, it is important to stop all violence, listen to the voices advocating for peace, and understand and address the underlying factors of why Colombians are out on the streets protesting.

Join us on Friday, May 28 at 2:00 p.m. EDT to hear directly from Alejandro Lanz Sánchez, co-executive director of Temblores ONG, and José Luciano Sanin Vasquez, director of Viva la Ciudadanía, who will explain the current moment, their critical work monitoring the police abuses, and what needs to be done to ensure accountability and a path forward amid Colombia’s current crisis. We will also be joined by WOLA’s Adam Isacson and LAWG’s Lisa Haugaard, who will provide analysis on how U.S. policymakers must respond to and confront the situation. The role of the U.S. government, given its close relationship with Colombia and its security forces, is crucial in ensuring Colombia attends to its vibrant civil society and advances the historic 2016 peace accord.


Event Details:
Friday, May 28, 2021
2:00 p.m. – 3:00 p.m. EDT

Simultaneous interpretation will be available between English and Spanish, exclusively on Zoom.

Alejandro Lanz Sánchez
Co-Executive Director, Temblores ONG

José Luciano Sanin Vasquez
Director, Viva la Ciudadanía

Adam Isacson
Director of Defense Oversight, WOLA


Moderation and comment by:
Lisa Haugaard
Co-Director, LAWG