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17 May 2021

Business and Human Rights Resource Centre

Statement by Business and Human Rights Resource Centre’s Executive Director, Phil Bloomer, on the Human Rights situation in Colombia

...Business & Human Rights Resource Centre (Resource Centre or RC) expresses its deep concerns over the serious human rights situation that the Colombian people have been through the past two weeks, in the context of the excessive use of force against national protests that emerged as part of deepened inequality exacerbated by COVID-19 pandemic...Colombian authorities cannot proclaim the country’s steady economic reputation and payment of external debt as a victory when profits have not helped improve the living conditions of already impoverished and marginalized vast sectors of the population and which, in many cases, depend on activities that are carried out without due compliance of international human rights obligations...[W]e urge the Colombian Govt, companies and business associations to directly acknowledge that the current crisis cannot be transformed without guaranteeing the right to peaceful assembly and protest, condemning all forms of violence, and ensuring a national conversation to address the underlying claims and causes of the current social crisis. Reports have shown business calling for the authorization of the use of force against peaceful demonstrators. Calls of this nature in Colombia contribute to an environment where 48 fatalities and other casualties that have been reported, including 33 people who lost their eyes, 16 women who have suffered from gender-based violence by public forces, the arbitrary detention of hundreds of protestors and, according to civil society organizations, over 435 people who were arrested and are still “disappeared”. The recent events in Cali, where armed civilians attacked and injured eight indigenous leaders of the “Minga” that travelled from Cauca to support civil disobedience, are unacceptable acts and should be duly and promptly investigated. We are also concerned about reported internet restrictions and the constant efforts by private and public actors to discredit, tarnish or marginalize civil society organizations and Human Rights Defenders as security threats, “vandals” or “economic saboteurs” through media misinformation campaigns, hacks and leaks of private information, and derogatory public statements...The RC believes that business and investors have an obligation to refrain from acting against human rights standards. We invite them to openly condemn the institutional violence that has been widely reported by local and international civil society, media, and human rights bodies...

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