Amidst profound concern about the deepening human rights crisis in Colombia and militarized repression of ongoing demonstrations across the country, Amnesty International Canada is calling on the Canadian government to suspend weapons exports to the South American country.
“Given horrendous human rights violations committed by security forces against protesters in Colombia, and in line with international obligations under the Arms Trade Treaty, Canada must immediately cease the direct or indirect supply, sale or transfer of equipment that could be used against civilians,” said Ketty Nivyabandi, Secretary General of Amnesty International Canada – English-speaking Section.
Military exports from Canada to Colombia in the past have included helicopters and armoured vehicles. In light of the troubling human rights record of Colombian police and military, Amnesty International and other human rights organizations call into question such exports.
In 2020, the value of Canadian military exports to Colombia was $460,338.87, according to the Government of Canada’s 2020 Report on Exports of Military Goods from Canada.
Since national protests began in Colombia on April 28, Amnesty International has verified excessive use of force by Colombian security forces leading to human rights violations and crimes under international law, including enforced disappearances and sexual violence, amounting to torture and ill-treatment.
“It is imperative that Canada investigates and makes public independently verified information detailing the use of Canadian military exports to Colombia,” said France-Isabelle Langlois, Directrice générale of Amnistie internationale Canada francophone. “Going forward, exports from Canada of equipment that could be used to commit human rights violations must be suspended until the right to peaceful assembly and freedom of speech is respected, and Colombian security forces fully comply with international law and standards on the use of force.”
A national strike (“Paro Nacional”) started on April 28 in Colombia and has continued with multiple massive demonstrations across the country. The government responded to the protests by deploying the military and the police anti-riot squad (Esquadrones Móviles Antidisturbios de la Policia Nacional, ESMAD).
Following rigorous investigation, analysis and verification of audiovisual evidence, Amnesty International concludes that Colombian law enforcement officers have frequently used excessive and unnecessary force to control the demonstrations. Moreover, the organization can confirm that officers carried out forced disappearances and sexual violence, which are crimes under international law.
From the onset of protests in April until June 16, Colombian civil society organizations have documented 4,285 acts of violence alleged to have been committed by Colombian security forces, including 1468 victims of physical violence, 215 victims of gunshots, at least 43 people killed (the possible role of security forces in 21 other homicides is currently under investigation), 70 people with eye injuries, 28 cases of sexual violence, and at least 106 cases of gender-based violence, among others. At least 1,832 people have been arbitrarily detained, and 346 people have been reported disappeared.
Colombia: The IACHR must listen to the voices of victims of human rights violations (News, June 8, 2021)
Colombia: OAS member states must not remain silent in the face of the human rights crisis (News, May 31, 2021)
Open Letter to Colombia’s President Ivan Duque Marquez (May 14, 2021)
Colombia: Urgent call for a cease to violence against Indigenous Peoples in the context of the National Strike (News, May 9, 2021)
Colombia: Concerning reports of disappearances and sexual violence against protesters (News, May 7, 2021)
Colombia: Amnesty International denounces militarized response and police repression of demonstrations (News, May 4, 2021)
To arrange an interview, please contact:
Lucy Scholey, Media Relations Officer, Amnesty International Canada (English-speaking section), 613-853-2142, firstname.lastname@example.org
Camille Ducroquet, Responsable des communications, Amnistie internationale Canada francophone, +1 514-766-9766 poste 5236, email@example.com