Death of Javier Ordóñez Leads to Calls for Police Reform

According to official figures ten protesters have been killed and over 200 civilians injured, allegedly, due to an excessive use of force by the Colombian Police, as well as, 194 police injured. Widespread social protests took place 9, 10 and 11 September 2020 following the murder of Javier Ordoñez in police custody. The massive protests over his murder should be understood as expression of social outrage accumulated by the repeated police abuse of Colombian citizens.

On Tuesday 8 September 2020 in Bogota Javier Ordóñez, a lawyer and father of two was pinned down, as he left his home, by the police and repeatedly shocked for over two minutes with a Taser. Both he, and others close watching the scene unfold, begged the police to stop. Javier Ordóñez was taken to a police station where it is alleged that he sustained further injuries and died later in hospital from a head wound.

The Police said that Javier Ordonez had violated of coronavirus distancing rules. People took to the streets to protest having seen the video of the incident that was circulating in social media.

People took to the streets in Bogota, Medellin and Cali to protest about the excessive use of violence against Javier Ordóñez by the police. Ten protesters have been killed, over 200 civilians and 194 police injured. There were 70 arrests, mostly in Bogota.

The massive protest and outrage over the murder of Javier Ordoñez should not be understood as an isolated case, but rather as the expression of social fatigue accumulated by the repeated police abuse of Colombian citizens, not only during social protests, but also throughout the pandemic.

The excessive use of force against citizens by a service that is there to protect citizens rights is a threat to democracy. Structural and doctrinal reform of the Colombia’s Police is necessary if it is to truly to adapted to the transition towards peace. This transition towards peace also implies a separation of the Police from the Ministry of Defense. This would allow it to become a civilian police service as recommended by the Office in Colombia of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights in their report to the UN Human Rights Council in February 2020.

The EU in a statement issued on 11 September 2020 stated: “The right to peaceful protest is essential to any democracy and begins with an unambiguous rejection of any act of vandalism and violence intended to generate fear and disorder.”

In an unprecedented move both the Minister of Defence Holmes Trujillo and the Director of the Police, Gustavo Moreno, publicly apologised and asked for forgiveness of the family and from all Colombian citizens for the death of Javier Ordóñez. The two Police officers involved have been charged with the crime of abuse of authority and homicide and five others have been suspended and are under investigation. An autopsy is pending.

Bogota Mayor Claudia Lopez urged protesters to refrain from violence and stated on Twitter we now need to “concentrate on achieving justice and structural reform [of the Police].”

ABColombia joins with the EU in recommending that “[a]ll excessive use of violence, by those that are responsible for protecting citizens, must be thoroughly and promptly investigated, the perpetrators brought to justice and institutional measures taken to avoid any repetition in line with the Colombian constitution and international standards.”

It is also essential to ensure that this case is heard in the Ordinary Justice System and not the Military Justice System.

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