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State violence against the National Strike continues

The individuals, entities, and social, popular and community organizations signing this public release reject the systematic aggressions against the population that have protested peacefully and with dignity during the National Strike, which started on April 28th. We denounce the accusations, persecution, judicialization and murder (both planned and arbitrary) that has been taking place in several areas of the Valle del Cauca region, specifically focusing on yesterday's events in which 18 demonstrators were arrested, adding to those that have occurred in the last three months.

These events take place in the context of a deep human rights crisis with growing persecution during the Iván Duque government: The arrests of social leaders and youths in Barranquilla, Bucaramanga and the south of Huila, the murder of protesters in the city of Cali as well as the murder of the community leader Oswaldo Pérez.

The facts:

On July 30th, 2021, in early hours of the morning, police corps (mainly SIJIN agents) arbitrarily carried out raids in the municipalities of Bugalagrande, Andalucía and in the city of Cali. As a result, 18 people were irregularly detained: Cristian David Granada Sánchez; Epifanío Domínguez Bolaños; Héctor Fabio Peña Cardona; Jhon David Castilla; Jhon Fredy Caicedo; Jhonatan Sabogal; Jorge Luis Gordillo; Jorge Miguel Vásquez; Juan Sebastián Aguirre Ospina; Kafina Reyes Varela; Miguel Ángel González Vélez; Pedro Pablo Mesa; Víctor Tascón; Walter Pachea; Jerlinson González; Álvaro José Ramos and Brendy Daniela Idrobo. During the arbitrary raids, these people and their families were victims of intimidation and psychological aggressions, and considerable material damages were caused to properties and belongings. 

The great majority of those arrested are young inhabitants of Bugalagrande, either unemployed, or independent workers or cane cutters, who are also affiliated to the National Union of Workers of the Agri-Food System - Sinaltrainal -. The charges against these people are simple kidnapping, torture and aggravated theft, events that allegedly occurred during the protests as part of the National Strike.

In the hearing held at the police command of Tuluá since the early hours on July 31st, 2021, with the objective of legalizing these detentions, the previously mentioned people who were arrested had to go through more arbitrary situations: At 11:50 a.m., the judge in charge of the judicial proceeding decided to suspend the hearing and forced the defence attorneys of those accused (who were present either physically or remotely in the judicial proceeding) to leave, justifying this practice due to the need to discuss confidential matters with the Attorney General's Office and the Prosecutor General's Office, which is a clear and flagrant violation of due process. After 20 minutes, at 12:10, and at the request of the same judge, the lawyers were invited to return to the hearing. These events show an evident lack of independence and objectivity of the justice systems apparatus and lack of guarantees.


We demand that the Colombian State cease the persecution and systematic aggressions against the population that has been demonstrating in a peaceful, dignified and permanent manner since April 28th; to stop the murder of social leaders who defend the territories and their communities; and to quit prosecuting those who exercise the fundamental right to social protest. 

We call on the organizations of the international community to continue reporting what is happening in the country and its regions, to denounce the human rights violations and arbitrary actions carried out by the national, departmental and local governments, and to demand that the Colombian State respects the free and sovereign exercise of the right to social protest. In this case more specifically, we require that the state must guarantee the respect for the life and integrity of the people detained, as well as the due process and judicial guarantees contemplated in the national and international legal framework.