Human Lives Human Rights: In a new report published by the rights group Amnesty International, stated that violence and repression by the Colombian security forces, especially the Mobile Anti-Riot Squad (ESMAD), have resulted in hundreds of victims sustaining eye trauma.
The report documents 12 cases of police violence that resulted in irreversible eye trauma. Four of the cases occurred in previous years and eight in the context of the 2021 National Strike, in the cities of Bogotá, Popayán, Florencia, Medellín and Manizales.
More than 300 pieces of audiovisual material on the disproportionate and repressive actions of ESMAD between 28 April and 20 October were analyzed by the digital corps, concluding that officials carried out widespread human rights violations against protesters by inflicting eye injuries through the disproportionate use of less lethal weapons.
The Mobile Anti-Riot Squad deliberately fired at the eyes of so many people, just for daring to exercise their legitimate right to peaceful protest.
The report highlights the stories of victims of eye trauma and describes the multiple barriers they have faced in ensuring they received specialized health and psycho-social care.
Their accounts describe in detail how their injuries were not accidental, but were targeted attacks intended to punish them for legitimately exercising their right to social protest.
Their revelations corroborate repeated complaints about the systematic nature of their practices of excessive and disproportionate use of force.
One of the most emblematic cases in the report is that of Leidy Cadena, a political science student who was demonstrating peacefully with her friends in central Bogotá on 28 April when ESMAD officials approached them in an aggressive manner. “I just shouted ‘let’s go’ and immediately afterwards my face felt very hot. I couldn’t see through either of my eyes, I was in a great deal of distress,” said Leidy.
Amnesty International verified a video taken following the incident in which five ESMAD members are seen with shields and two of them are carrying riot gear in their hands, including mechanical kinetic weapons. Leidy is covering her bleeding eye, clearly in pain and her companions ask for help, but the ESMAD officials do not help her.
Leidy lost an eye in the attack. She believes that it was an act of gender-based violence because her companions were unharmed and from the start of the demonstrations she had noticed several attacks against women.
The Colombian authorities must guarantee justice, comprehensive care and reparation to the victims and take the necessary measures to avoid a repetition of these serious human rights violations.