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BRIEFING NOTES - (1) Colombia; (2) El Salvador

Spokesperson for the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights: Marta Hurtado

Location: Geneva

Date: 4 May 2021

Subject: (1) Colombia

(2) El Salvador

1) Colombia

We are deeply alarmed at developments in the city of Cali in Colombia overnight, where police opened fire on demonstrators protesting against tax reforms, reportedly killing and injuring a number of people.

Our office in Colombia is working to verify the exact number of casualties, and establish how this terrible incident came about in Cali. Human rights defenders are also reporting they have been harassed and threatened.

We express our profound shock at the events there and stress our solidarity with those who have lost their lives, as well as the injured and their families.

Despite an announcement from the Colombian presidency on 2 May that the tax reform bill would be removed from Congress, the protests, which began on 28 April, have been continuing, with calls for a massive demonstration tomorrow, 5 May. The majority of the protests to date have been peaceful.

Given the extremely tense situation, with soldiers as well as police officers deployed to police the protest, we call for calm. We remind the State authorities of their responsibility to protect human rights, including the right to life and security of person, and to facilitate the exercise of the right to freedom of peaceful assembly.

We stress also that law enforcement officers should abide by the principles of legality, precaution, necessity and proportionality when policing demonstrations. Firearms can only be used as a measure of last resort against an imminent threat to life or of serious injury.

Since 28 April, the UN Human Rights Office has received allegations of at least 14 deaths in the context of the protests in different parts of Colombia, including at least one police officer.

2) EL Salvador

United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet on Monday warned that the decision by El Salvador’s Legislative Assembly to dismiss the magistrates of the Constitutional Chamber of the Supreme Court of Justice and the Attorney General seriously undermines democracy and the rule of law in the country.

“The separation of powers is a cornerstone of any democracy. Weakening of this important system of checks and balances leads to the erosion of the pillars of the rule of law and thus of a country's democratic system,” the High Commissioner said.

On 1 May, the newly constituted Salvadoran Legislative Assembly dismissed all members of the Constitutional Chamber of the Supreme Court of Justice - five permanent magistrates and their alternates – alleging that they had acted unconstitutionally in ruling against the Ministry of Health’s acts and decisions in relation to the COVID-19 pandemic. The legislators also dismissed the Attorney General, citing his ties to an opposition party.

To read the full press release, please click here

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