What is the protocol to guarantee social protest in Colombia and where does it come from?

The Colombian government presented this week the "Protocol for the coordination of actions of respect and guarantee of peaceful protest"

What is it and where does the protocol to guarantee social protest in Colombia come from?

What is the protocol?

In Colombia, social protest is a right enshrined in the 1991 Constitution. The first thing that is clarified by those who designed it is that the "Protocol for the coordination of actions of respect and guarantee of peaceful protest" does not create new norms nor modify the current ones. This was presented this week by Interior Minister Guillermo Rivera and signed by United Nations delegates in the country and social organizations.

Leer en español: ¿Qué es y de dónde surge el protocolo para garantizar la protesta social en Colombia?

According to the signatories, it is a document that will serve as a methodological guide and is based on the provisions that already exist in the Political Constitution, the National Police Code, and the resolutions of the Ministry of Defense on the subject. In addition, the protocol takes into account the jurisprudence of the Constitutional Court and international instruments such as the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

The protocol "adopts mechanisms to guarantee the exercise of fundamental rights that are linked to social protest, as well as the rights of third parties, with the goal of drastically reducing the use of violent mechanisms in the exercise of protest, and strengthening the exercise peaceful", said eight coalitions and human rights platforms, in which nearly 1,000 civil society organizations are grouped.

Some of the issues that are addressed in the protocol are:

  • The guarantee of the exercise of the protest, as well as the rights of third parties to work
  • Free movement, personal integrity and private property
  • The creation of a follow-up committee and guarantee of peaceful protest, the proper use of the Unified Command Point (PMU, in Spanish)
  • The possibility of forming Verification Commissions convened by organized civil society to disseminate and ensure that the elements of the Protocol are complied with
  • The presence of Co-existence Managers or delegated officials in the development of the protests

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Regarding the role of the public force, it is recalled provisions such as the duty of the Mobile Anti-riot Squad (ESMAD, in Spanish) to guarantee the lives of the demonstrators as well as of any person involved in the events. It is clarified that the intervention of the Public Force in the demonstration must be the last resort and the Police officers, clearly and visibly identified, cannot carry firearms. In the case of the Military Forces, it is clarified that they must not intervene in the mobilizations except in extraordinary cases authorized by the Constitution.

Where does the Protocol come from?

The peace agreement signed between the Colombian government and the FARC guerrillas contains a commitment from the Executive to, among other provisions, review the current norms in terms of guarantees for social protest. In the framework of compliance with the agreement, "for more than three years several working groups were convened in which similar experiences were studied and analyzed in Colombia and abroad. Interventions were presented by the Ministry of Defense, the Public Ministry and the civil society, from which a road map was built, also analyzed by the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner", said the platforms.

Pending issues: criticism and compliance

The protocol was released after the declarations of Guillermo Botero, next Minister of Defense of the elect president Iván Duque, who indicated that the new government should regulate this right. The current government, the United Nations, and the organizations hope that the Cabinet that will take office on August 7 will respect and support the Protocol.

Critical voices have also been heard from local governments and unions that feel excluded from the discussion. In this regard, Minister Guillermo Rivera recalled that the final resolution of the Protocol has not been signed and therefore the government will continue to receive comments from different sectors for a few more days.

Finally, the organizations hope that the new congress of Colombia will also take ownership of the issue and, based on this protocol, create a Statutory Law "aimed at the protection and guarantee of the right".


LatinAmerican Post | Carolina Garzón
Translated from “¿Qué es y de dónde surge el protocolo para garantizar la protesta social en Colombia?”

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