CONTAGIORADIO, December 17, 2021

(Translated by Eunice Gibson, CSN Volunteer Translator)

In spite of the multiple criticisms of the Citizen Security bill because of the various ways it criminalizes social protest and could criminalize the work of human rights defenders, besides offering unconditional incentives to the Armed Forces, Congress will be giving it its desk-pounding approval during the extraordinary sessions that will last until December 23.

As this station had already warned, the Citizen Security bill is far from being the reform that the Armed Forces need to give them incentives to respect human rights and avoid arbitrary Police actions. On the contrary, it hardens the rules against people that demonstrate, and it expressly restricts the liberty of people accused by the Police. Some Members of Congress identify three crucial points in this reform.

“Legitimate Defense”: a security problem that broadens it instead of addressing it

For Senator Iván Cepeda, one of the principal problems with the Citizen Security Law is that it broadens the concept of legitimate defense, and incentivizes the possibility that citizens resort to weapons, yet fails to provide the necessary controls.

This concern is growing, since in the National Strike and during the protests in general, you could observe civilians using weapons and arguing that was for their legitimate defense. But others called it “urban paramilitarism”, as highlighted by Andrés Escobar, who has yet to be tried for the crime charged by the Attorney General’s Office, and who has not been arrested.

Furthermore, this bill would toughen and broaden the powers of the Armed Forces to characterize as crimes the activities of human rights teams that are present at demonstrations, because it includes the crime of obstruction of a public function and would impose jail time for attacks on public officials.

Tweet by Iván Cepeda Castro  December 17, 2021

The administration called a special session of Congress to pass the disastrous “Citizen Security” bill. It would create conditions for new human rights violations, like those that were complained of in recent reports.

Some of its principal problems:

  1. Incentive for people to take the law into their own hands

The bill broadens the definition of “legitimate defense” and turns it into an inducement for citizens to arm themselves. Instead of prosecuting crimes, it would generate more problems of crime.

  • It would punish the work of human rights defenders with jail time by inserting new crimes.

As to that last point, it’s no secret that one of the ways that the Police operate is to grab anybody within reach and then get them charged with a crime as fast as possible, so that people will be afraid to go out to protest. That point is troublesome, considering the notorious arbitrariness in foisting crimes on people in the midst of the protests.

Finally, instead of toughening the punishments of the members of the Security Forces, what this bill tries to do is to provide incentives in favor of the Police, like free tickets, scholarships to the university, and a series of handouts that would do nothing to improve the behavior of the members of the Army or the Police, because it doesn’t include restraints on those that are accused of, or charged with, human rights violations.

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