The UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet has voiced deep concern at recent events in the Colombian city of Cali, where reports indicate that, since 28 May, 14 people have died, and 98 people have been injured, 54 of them by firearms during violence that erupted in the city where demonstrations were taking place to commemorate a month of national strike.
The High Commissioner noted that her Office had received reports that armed individuals, including an off-duty judicial police officer, had opened fire towards demonstrators, journalists covering the protests, as well as passers-by.
The judicial police officer in question was beaten to death by a crowd. According to some reports, in parts of the city, private individuals had fired shots at demonstrators in the presence of police officers.
“These events are all the more concerning given the progress that had been made to resolve, through dialogue, the social unrest that erupted a month ago, following the start of a nation-wide strike against several social and economic policies of the Government,” Bachelet said.
“It is essential that all those who are reportedly involved in causing injury or death, including State officials, are subject to prompt, effective, independent, impartial and transparent investigations and that those responsible are held accountable,” she said.
“I call for an end to all forms of violence, including vandalism, and for all sides to continue talking to each other, and to ensure respect for the life and dignity of all people,” the High Commissioner said.
Bachelet stressed that only dialogue can resolve the demands of different groups, both those who are taking part in demonstrations and those opposed to the protests.
“I welcome the commitment voiced by several actors, in Cali and at the national level, to find a negotiated and peaceful solution to the social unrest through talks,” she said.
The UN Human Rights Office in Colombia has also received information of at least 30 people who were arrested on 28 May.
“The fair trial and due process rights of those detained need to be ensured,” Bachelet said. In response to concerns about the whereabouts of certain detainees, she also reiterated the need to implement all necessary measures, in line with international human rights standards, to prevent disappearances.
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