New Report Calls Colombian Police Actions During Protests a 'Massacre' Against Civilians

A new report backed by the United Nations called actions from the Colombian police during protests in September 2020 a "massacre" against civilians in low-income neighborhoods.

The 182-page report said 14 people were killed by police during the protests on September 9-11, 2020, who were protestors who hijacked a bus and civilians using firearms. Officers were also filmed damaging private property. The report said 75 people received injuries from firearms during protests.

Protests were spurred after videos shared on social media showed two policemen detaining taxi driver Javier Ordoñez, 44, who had been drinking on the sidewalk, and repeatedly beating him while an onlooker asked for them to stop. Ordoñez died that night because of his injuries. The protests that ensued saw 17 police stations in the capital city Bogotá set on fire and destroyed by protestors during the three nights of protesting.

The report said violence was out of control because officers were unprepared to handle large crowds and were not given orders to not use firearms from their superiors when faced with protestors in front of police stations.

"Everyone made mistakes on the 9th and 10th of September, except for the victims of this tragedy," said Carlos Negret, a lawyer and human rights expert who headed the report. "Police acted with disproportionate use of force and went after the poorest people in the city."

Bogotá's city government commissioned the report last year. It also held a ceremony asking for forgiveness from the victim's families.

The report is based on interviews with over 90 witnesses, police officers, and members of the victims' families. The United Nations gave financial support and technical assistance.

Colombia, Protests, Deaths, "Massacre," Police
Colombian police killed at least 10 people during protests that broke out in September of last year, following the death of a taxi driver who was beaten to death while in police custody, a report published December 13, backed by the United Nations found. A woman holding a Colombian flag stands next to a police officer in riot gear during a protest in Bogota, Colombia on September 21, 2020. Fernando Vergara/AP Photo, File

The findings come as police in Colombia face greater scrutiny for their behavior during protests and different sectors called for the reform of an institution that has long been deployed to fight drug trafficking gangs and guerrilla groups in rural areas and is poorly equipped to handle large crowds of civilians in urban areas.

Earlier this year, dozens of people died in protests over tax hikes and inequality that included roadblocks and small pockets of violent protesters, mixed among mostly peaceful crowds. According to evidence gathered by Human Rights Watch, police in Colombia could be implicated in 25 of those deaths.

Monday's report calls on the Colombian government to reform the country's laws so that municipal governments have greater control over police forces. Currently, Colombia's police forces are run by the Ministry of Defense and only takes orders from the national government.

The report pointed out that so far, four police officers are facing murder charges for the deaths that occurred in the September 2020 protests, though there are still no convictions and none of the officers charged with murder is in prison. The report also called on Colombian prosecutors to investigate the role that high-ranking officers may have had in the violent response to the protests in September.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Colombia, Protests, Deaths, "Massacre," Police
The report released Monday regarding the protests in Colombia on September 9-11, 2020, said violence was out of control due to officers were unprepared to handle large crowds and were not given orders to not use firearms from their superiors when faced with protestors in front of police stations. In this photo, members of the national police attend a ceremony for the presentation of new uniforms at the Bolivar square in Bogotá, Colombia, on July 19. Juan Barreto/AFP via Getty Images