Colombia criticizes UN representative for position on police abuses

Bogota, Dec 14 (EFE).- Colombian Foreign Minister and Vice President Marta Lucia Ramirez on Tuesday sent a letter to the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights representative in Colombia, Juliette de Rivero, expressing her discontent with the diplomat’s remarks in presenting an independent report on the actions of the police in the September 2020 protests in Bogota.

“In your statements, you seem to endorse the content of a document that the state did not know about until yesterday and which suggests a lack of confidence in the institutional framework and, in particular, in the police,” Ramirez told Rivero.

The Colombian official said that Rivero’s presence as a UN representative at the presentation of the report and her remarks “puts at risk the confidence that must prevail in relations between the government and the (UNHCR) office, and makes more difficult the communication and cooperation that constitute the essence of your mandate.”

Rivero on Monday participated in the presentation of the independent investigation headed by former Colombian Ombudsman Carlos Negret which states that on Sept. 9-10, 2020, the police “reacted in a disproportionate, illegal manner … in contrast to the principles of humanity, in handling the public demonstrations that occurred in Bogota and Soacha.”

In addition, the report speaks of a “massacre” in which 11 young people died and which “occurred in the absence of a political order and operational policy not to use firearms against demonstrators, in a complex social context and amid high tension that would have required decisive political and operational leadership.”

During her speech, Rivero emphasized that the UN Office for Human Rights provided technical advice in the preparation of the report, which was asked for by the Bogota Mayor’s Office, calling the conclusions “devastating” and saying that local authorities had been affected “by the damage that we can do to one another when we look and respond to a situation with hatred.”

“With the accounts from today, Dr. Negret has dignified the victims, this was owed to them. Many will feel hopeless in this situation; … Here a situation of serious lack of confidence has been created in the institutional framework and, in particular, in the police,” said Rivero, who added that the “aim is not to discredit the police or to sully their image, but on the contrary to restore confidence, using the truth to reform” their actions.

However, the vice president emphasized that the report was directed by Negret, who aspires to win a seat in the Colombian Senate in the March 2022 elections, and she said that “the Colombian government should call attention to the unfortunate effects that his participation in the event creates, not only because of the message that it transmits to public opinion but also to the state institutions.”

In addition, she reminded the parties that the forms of communications between their offices should occur along official and diplomatic channels and advised Rivero that the actions of the UN office were founded on “fomenting a climate of trust, corroborating all information with official sources, and applying the principles of impartiality, objectivity, independence and transparency that must govern all its actions.”

EFE ime/ocm/eat/bp

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