UN ‘Deeply Alarmed’ by Police Violence in Colombian Protests

The United Nations (UN) human rights office said on May 4 that it was “deeply alarmed” over the police violence against protesters in the Colombian city of Cali.

“We express our profound shock at the events there and stress our solidarity with those who have lost their lives, as well as the injured and their families,” Spokesperson for the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Marta Hurtado said in a statement.

According to Hurtado, the UN is working to verify the exact number of casualties from the reports it received and how the “terrible incident” occurred in Cali, “where police opened fire on demonstrators protesting against tax reforms, reportedly killing and injuring a number of people.”

Hurtado said the office also received reports of at least 14 deaths related to the protests across Colombia, including at least one police officer, as well as reports of human rights defenders being harassed and threatened.

“What we can say clearly is that we have received reports, and we have witnesses of excessive use of force by security officers, shooting, live ammunition being used, beatings of demonstrators and as well detentions,” Hurtado told reporters in Geneva.

Hurtado called for calm and reminded State authorities of their “responsibility to protect human life.”

The Ombudsman’s Office in Colombia reported last May 2 that 19 people died in the protests that first broke out last April 28 after initially setting the death toll at 17. However, the figure does not include the fresh clashes in Cali, the third largest city in the South American country.

The protests continued despite President Iván Duque announcing last May 2 that he would withdraw the proposed tax reform bill.

Protesters said the withdrawal was not enough and that they also want improvements on the health and education system.

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