United For Colombia Australia Inc. (UFCA) and Colombians living in Australia, make an urgent appeal to the national and international community, governments, and organisations that ensure compliance with and defence of Human Rights and International Humanitarian Law, to focus their attention on Colombia to guarantee the life and safety of the people participating in the massive social protest that has been taking place in various parts of the country since 28 April, and which began as a protest against the proposed Tax Reform, called “Sustainable Solidarity Law”, which the government of President Iván Duque proposed to implement as part of his government plan - in the midst of the current COVID19 pandemic - and who has responded to the voice of the people with repression by the Police and the Mobile Anti-Riot Squad (ESMAD).
According to the report issued on 1 May 2021 by the NGO Temblores, at least 10 people have been killed during the demonstrations and 851 cases of police violence have been identified, including: 68 victims of physical violence by the police, 13 victims of homicidal violence, 655 arbitrary detentions against demonstrators, 98 violent interventions by the security forces, 8 victims of eye injuries, and 18 cases of firearm shots by the police. Other sources indicate that a woman reported being sexually abused by an ESMAD agent in Cali, and that a police captain was killed in Soacha in the midst of the riots.
In social networks and alternative media, videos and reports are circulating showing the security forces repressing the mobilisation, firing indiscriminately against the people and making improper use of their force and power. On several occasions, moreover, they have been recorded without identification numbers on their uniforms. In the last three nights, in cities such as Cali and Bogotá, there have even been intentional blackouts to make it easier for the military forces to repress the population.
We reiterate to the Colombian State that social protest is a human right and a fundamental right, legally and constitutionally recognised and protected in article 37 of the Political Constitution of Colombia. All citizens, including those who participate in social protest, have a right to be guaranteed their life and physical integrity, without legitimate risk of forced disappearance, torture or cruel and inhuman treatment, according to articles 11 and 12 of this same Constitution. In solidarity with Colombia, once again, we make an urgent appeal to the national and international community, to governments, to social, political and solidarity
organisations in LatinAmerica, Australia and the world; and to people interested in combating the systematic violation of Human Rights in this country and in the search for true Peace, to add their support to the following petitions:
1. We demand that President Iván Duque’s government draw up a real draft “Sustainable Solidarity Law” in consultation with opposition parliamentarians, members of social organisations, trade unions and a committee of financial experts in order to draw up a proposal that is convenient for the majority of Colombian society.
2. We urge President Iván Duque to refrain from using Military Assistance, through the Armed Forces, as a response to the social demands to which the Colombian people have a constitutional right in their free exercise of protest.
3. We demand that the security forces and the military forces comply with their constitutional duty to guarantee and protect fundamental rights, especially the right to life.
4. We ask the Colombian Congress and the government of President Iván Duque to take measures to improve the austerity policies of the state, reducing the salaries of parliamentarians and senior state officials.
5. We demand that the judicial authorities, as a matter of urgency, carry out the relevant investigations to clarify the circumstances in which several civilians have been affected or compromised in these days of social protest. We express our support for the civil strike and reject all acts of vandalism and aggression.
We send our warmest greetings and solidarity to the indigenous, peasant, afro-descendant and queer communities, the student movement, and all the people who have taken to the streets to raise their voices in opposition of the regressive policies that the government wants to impose and that widen the gap of social inequality.
We appreciate your support, your artistic displays and legitimate forms of protest against the government. We encourage you to continue to exercise your right to protest responsibly, in accordance with the guidelines of the rights to freedom of expression, peaceful assembly and association.