Thursday, September 24, 2020

Colombia's court defends right to protest (Sept. 24, 2020)

Colombia's Supreme Court ordered the government to restructure security force responses to demonstrations in order safeguard the right to peaceful protest. The judges found that security forces' response to protests has been "systematic, violent, arbitrary and disproportionate," and ordered the government to maintain neutrality in the face of peaceful protests.

The 171 page sentence also orders authorities to create a protocol for protection of protesters and civil society verification of detentions during demonstrations. The judges also prohibited the use of 12 mm caliber rifles by anti-riot police until there are guarantees for responsible use of the weapon.

The landmark ruling comes after 13 people were killed in protests against police violence -- security forces used firearms against demonstrators -- earlier this month, and as demonstrations against the government are gearing up. (See Tuesday's post.) The case was brought to the court by activists and organizations of civil society during massive protests last November. The judges found that more than 1,600 people were illegally detained during last November's protests.

The sentence gives Defense Minister Carlos Holmes Trujillo 48 hours to apologize for excesses committed by security forces under his watch. Trujillo rejected the order, saying the excesses were the result of individual actions, not government directives. Experts say his refusal could put him in contempt of court.

Police violence in Colombia has been under increasing scrutiny this month. Colombia needs "a stronger civilian police force that reports to the Interior Ministry instead of the Defense Ministry, and less reliance on the military as the main representative of the Colombian state in rural areas," argued Human Rights Watch researcher Juan Pappier in an Americas Quarterly article this week (before the Supreme Court decision). (See Tuesday's post.) 

More Colombia
  • An alarming increase in violence signals a new phase in Colombia's long history of bloodshed, reports the Associated Press. Rather than confrontations between guerrillas and government forces, violence is now driven by criminal groups that fight over territories and illegal economies. Civilians perceived to be part of a rival group are caught in the crossfire -- there have been 230 massacre victims so far this year.
  • La Silla Vacía criticized President Iván Duque for not mentioning violence against social leaders in his U.N. general assembly speech this week -- 555 community leaders have been killed in the past four years, many in the above mentioned massacres.
News Briefs

  • Brazilian meat giant JBS promised to eliminate suppliers linked to Amazon deforestation, a major success for environmental campaigners, who, nonetheless, say the 2025 deadline is too distant. (Guardian)
  • Gun-related violence against Brazilian children and teenagers -- an issue that disproportionately claims Black lives -- has been alarmingly high for years, though it has received little attention from the government. A bill that would create a "National Plan to Combat the Killing of Young People" has been stuck in congress for years, write  Beatriz Rey and Estevan Muniz, who argue that mobilization could help obtain policy responses. (Aula Blog)
  • Former Mexican president Felipe Calderón, architect of the country's infamous crackdown on cartels, privately admitted the war was “unwinnable” and that legalising drugs was the only way out, reports Vice News.
  • Coronavirus devastation in Iztapalapa, in Mexico City, epitomizes the impossible choices the pandemic forces on Latin America's poorest populations, reports the New York Times. "For the vast majority of people, risking illness or death has simply become the price of survival."
  • Mexican authorities are preparing arrest warrants that could for the first time target soldiers in the investigation into the 2014 abduction and presumed massacre of 43 students, reports Reuters.
  • The recent attempt to unseat Peruvian President Martín Vizcarra is a return to the country's pattern of political chaos, writes Daniel Encinas in the New York Times Español. Though an impeachment attempt last week failed, the political crisis continues, he argues. (See Monday's briefs.)
  • Attempts to restart Venezuela's (literally) broken oil industry are spewing crude into the ocean, reports the Washington Post.
  • The United States imposed sanctions on Venezuelan lawmakers it accused of colluding with Nicolás Maduro to manipulate legislative elections scheduled for December, report Reuters.
  • Argentina’s intelligence service illegally spied on the families of crew members from a missing navy submarine in 2017. Three hard drives showing that family members’ activities and communications had been monitored were uncovered by investigators -- part of a probe into the intelligence agency’s role during the previous government. (New York Times
I hope you're all staying safe and as sane as possible, given the circumstances ... Comments and critiques welcome, always.

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