In light of verified visual evidence by Amnesty International that United States weapons and equipment are being misused to commit human rights violations against protesters in Colombia, the human rights organization is calling on Secretary of State Blinken to immediately cease the direct or indirect supply, sale, or transfer of equipment used for repression such as small arms, shotguns, and related ammunition; less-lethal equipment, such as tear gas, riot control projectiles and launchers; armored vehicles, dual-use surveillance technologies, training, and any other technical or financial assistance.
“The United States role in fueling ceaseless cycles of violence committed against the people of Colombia is outrageous,” said Philippe Nassif, the advocacy director at Amnesty International USA. “The United States government has been an agonizing party to the killing, disappearances, sexual violence and other torture, and horrendous repression of dozens of mostly peaceful demonstrations.
“A suspension of weapons must remain in place until the Colombian security forces fully comply with international law and standards on the use of force, abuses are independently and impartially investigated, and there is full accountability for all human rights violations that have been committed by the Colombian authorities, with support from the United States. Secretary Blinken has the power to stop the fear and terror that Colombian protesters are enduring, and he must do so immediately.”
Background and Context
A national strike (“Paro Nacional”) started on April 28 in Colombia and has continued with multiple massive demonstrations across the country. The government responded to the protests by deploying the military and the police anti-riot squad (ESMAD).
As of May 9 data, Colombian human rights organizations have recorded the death of 47 people, 39 of them in the context of violent repression by the Colombian police, 1,876 acts of police violence, 963 arrests, 28 victims of eye injuries and 12 cases of sexual violence. The Attorney General Office had 168 active requests for missing persons, as well as other reports of torture, ill-treatment, beatings, and attacks by armed civilians, many in the presence of the police.
Amnesty International has verified the use of Venom high-capacity grenade launchers and Penn Arms hand-held grenade launchers, both manufactured by the American company Combined Systems. The United States had historically been one of the main Colombia’s police weapons and other equipment providers and there are reports of new purchase orders of United States equipment from the beginning of 2021.