The UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Michelle Bachelet has expressed “deep concern’’ at recent events in the Colombian city of Cali that had triggered incidences of violence and several deaths.
In a statement on Sunday, Bachelet called for an end to all forms of violence, including vandalism, saying that only dialogue could resolve the demands of different groups involved in the current national strike.
Her office received reports indicating that since May 28, no fewer than 14 people had died with 98 others injured, 54 of them by firearms during the violence that erupted in the city, following demonstrations to commemorate a month-old strike.
Bachelet’s team also said they received reports of armed individuals, including an off-duty judicial police officer that opened fire towards demonstrators, journalists covering the protests, as well as passers-by.
The judicial police officer involved was beaten to death by a crowd, even as in parts of the city, private individuals also fired shots at demonstrators in the presence of police officers, according to a report.
The UN Human Rights Office in Colombia received information as well of at least 30 people arrested on May 28.
Bachelet stated that the fair trial and due process rights of those detained needed to be ensured, addressing concerns about the whereabouts of certain detainees.
She also reiterated the need to implement all necessary measures, in line with international human rights standards, to prevent disappearances.
For the commissioner, these events were especially of concern given the “progress that had been made to resolve, through dialogue, the social unrest that erupted a month ago following the start of a nation-wide strike against several social and economic policies of the Government.”
“It is essential that all those who are reportedly involved in causing injury or death, including state officials, are subject to prompt, effective, independent, impartial, and transparent investigations and that those responsible are held accountable,” she said.
Bachelet emphasised that only dialogue could resolve the demands of the different groups, both those who were taking part in demonstrations and those opposed to the protests.
“I welcome the commitment voiced by several actors in Cali, and at the national level, to find a negotiated and peaceful solution to the social unrest through talks,” she said.
Also, the Special Representative of the Secretary-General in Colombia, Carlos Ruiz Massieu, also expressed his grave concern about the current situation in the country, saying that he was ‘following it closely’.
In a statement on Saturday, Massieu said that the serious events in Cali and other parts of the country showed the need to strengthen dialogue as a fundamental instrument to resolve conflicts.
The head of the UN Verification Mission called on all actors to prevent and end the violence, while doing everything possible to reduce tensions and avoid escalation.
“In any circumstance, even the most difficult, we must promote dialogue. Consolidating a stable and lasting peace in the country is my greatest wish and, I am sure, that of all Colombians,” he said.