Human Lives Human Rights: A research has revealed how Colombian security forces assaulted peaceful protesters in Cali on 3 May. Three young people were shot and killed, in the midst of this violence.
The research done by the Amnesty International, using digital reconstruction of the events has revealed how the Colombian security forces intentionally attacked people who were demonstrating peacefully in order to punish, injure and kill them.
The data collected shows that the police did not face an imminent threat of violence, and that their use of lethal weapons was unjustified. The toll of their excessive use of force was the lives of Kevin Agudelo and two other young men.
This research analyzed more than 200 pieces of audiovisual material and interviewed multiple witnesses to verify details about “Operation Siloé”. This joint incursion by members of the National Police, the Mobile Anti-Riot Squad (ESMAD) and the Special Operations Group of the Colombian National Police (GOES) targeted people taking part in a vigil at the La Glorieta roundabout in the Siloé neighbourhood.
Several people were arbitrarily detained and hundreds were injured, with three people dying of gunshot wounds, including Kevin Agudelo, a promising 22-year-old football player.
Each video and witness testimony recounts a unique perspective of the night. Some describe communal moments of remembrance, others show chaotic scenes of weapons deployed from seemingly all directions, yet others capture the bloody injuries of protesters carried away to receive treatment.
When aggregated in time and space, these experiences build a synthesized picture of what unfolded on May 3: a carefully orchestrated assault on a peaceful vigil.
The evidence found even indicated that live ammunition was used against protesters, such as photos of shell casings, bullet holes and the sound of gunfire.
The organization verified videos taken prior to the attack and was able to determine that there were police officers present close to where Kevin died and that they were firing 5.56mm Tavor rifles. The evidence shows that there was no imminent threat of violence that could not reasonably have been addressed by the security forces with more proportionate measures.
This meticulous digital reconstruction of the events in Siloé reveals how the Colombian security forces intentionally attacked people who were demonstrating peacefully in order to punish, injure and kill them
One of the witnesses of the event said: “We didn’t have any kind of protection and we couldn’t get away before the gunshots and tear gas started streaming out from different directions… it was excessive, we were not armed nor did we have any way to respond to that arsenal… they used rifles that are used in war, the only thing we could do was run for our lives, Kevin was with us.”
There has been an unlawful and excessive deployment of tear gas using Venom, a weapons system whose prescribed use is to disperse a violent crowd. Since the security forces used it at night, from above, and on peaceful protesters who did not know where to disperse, its use was unjustified and inappropriate. Rather than a legitimate attempt to restore public order, using tear gas in this way indicates the intention to facilitate a military attack.
The security forces were aware of the deadly capability of their weapons and yet they fired at will in a place where there were young people, children and adults who had to run for their lives.
The launch of an operation of this magnitude, as if it were a confrontation with armed actors and not a peaceful protest, is indicative of the warlike nature of the response to the protests related to the national strike in Cali.
Rights groups urge the Attorney General’s Office to make advances in the investigation into the death of Kevin Agudelo and the other serious human rights violations committed during Operation Siloé and, if there is sufficient and admissible evidence against those suspected of criminal responsibility, bring them to justice in a fair trial before ordinary civilian courts.