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Colombian court bans Venom rocket launcher against protesters

Friday, June 4th 2021 - 08:45 UTC
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Venom launchers will need a special protocol before they can be used again by the Popayán police Venom launchers will need a special protocol before they can be used again by the Popayán police

A Colombian court in the city of Popayán has banned the use by law enforcement agents of the Venom ammunition launch system, Colombia, it was announced.

The measure came after the use of such device by the police during protests in Popayán drew heavy worldwide criticism. The court order issued Thursday establishes that the suspension will be maintained until a specific protocol is developed to manipulate the device.

Read also: Human Rights Watch warns Colombian police uses high-tech projectile launcher against demonstrators

The Tenth Administrative Court of Popayán, Colombia, ruled that the city's Metropolitan Police, the Citizen Security Directorate (Disec) and the Mobile Anti-Riot Squad (Esmad) suspend the use of the “Venom” ammunition launching system, used against protesters of the National Strike Committee.

This measure was taken after the cases were filed by citizens of Popayán who alerted about the actions of Esmad in the protests on May 12, when members of the police used the device against the protesters, at close range and from a flat surface.

According to the order, the required protocol must have ”the correct way to manipulate it (the device), that is, on platforms such as land vehicles or unmanned platforms and not from the ground, even if it is supported on a tripod.“

”The preparation of the protocol must comply with the conditions established, in general, by International Humanitarian Law, international and national regulations on the use of non-lethal weapons,“ the judiciary order said as it called for all of the Esmad agents in Popayán to be trained, ”based on the protocol that will be issued for this purpose, in the correct use of the Venom electric multiple launchers.”

The Court established that the mayor of Popayán, Juan Carlos López Castrillón, or whoever exercises his functions, must supervise and guarantee compliance with the order and, after the protocol and training of officials are in place, he will be the one to authorize again its use.

According to the non-governmental organization (NGO) Temblores, there were 3,789 cases of police violence including 45 killings between April 28 and May 31 against protesters who reject the neoliberal policies of the government headed by Iván Duque, while 1,248 cases of physical violence have been reported in addition to 1,649 arbitrary arrests and 705 violent interventions by the public forces, due to which some 65 people have sustained eye injuries, 187 from gunshots while 25 others were subject to sexual violence.

In that scenario, combined with over 90,000 covid-19 related deaths and contrary to what common sense would seem to advise, the Colombian Government has given a green light to the return of events drawing large crowds. The country has gradually loosened many restrictions imposed in March last year to control the spread of coronavirus and rolled back others for certain locations on Thursday, though medical staff expect coronavirus cases to remain high.

“Right now what we are proposing is a safe reopening with conditions that allow us to move gradually, as vaccination grows and as cities move past this third peak,” Health Minister Fernando Ruiz said in a statement, adding a fourth peak is possible.

Ruiz explained that cities with ICU occupancy rates above 85% (which include Colombia's capital Bogota, Medellin and also Cali, which rates above 96%) will continue to see some restrictions, but other areas will be allowed to bring back events like concerts and sports matches, with audiences capped at 25% capacity.

The requirement for international travellers to submit a negative PCR test to enter Colombia will be suspended and in-person classes for preschool through university will restart from July 15 after staff are vaccinated.

Colombia has so far administered more than 10.6 million vaccine doses, including 3.3 million second doses.

Categories: Politics, Latin America.

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