- Colombian police crackdown on protests has left 63 dead since May
- The National Crime Agency (NCA) ran a £ 450,000 per year training program for Colombian law enforcement agencies from 2015 to 2020
- British agency trained specialized Colombian units, which would be militarized, in “advanced operational practices”
- But NCA refuses to say Declassified whether forces he trained were active in repression or if training is continuing
The UK government has spent five years and £ 2.3million training ‘specialist police cadres’ in Colombia, where dozens of protesters have been killed over the past month in a police crackdown on anti-government protests .
The British program for the Colombian police, which lasted until last year, included training in “advanced operational practices” for what are believed to be militarized units.
The training was hosted by the National Crime Agency (NCA), the covert branch of law enforcement in the UK that operates around the world but is immune to the country’s transparency laws. The ANC would not confirm Declassified if the training program is still in progress.
Since the beginning of May, protests that started against the government’s proposed tax reform have gripped Colombia, killing 63 people, Human Rights Watch said.
Amnesty International has reported a “police crackdown on mostly peaceful protests” in various towns in Colombia. He added that “the police have used force indiscriminately and disproportionately, and there are alarming reports of sexual violence and disappearances.”
Colombia’s President Iván Duque, in power since 2018, represents the right-wing Democratic Center Party (PCD) and is seen as the chosen successor to controversial former president Álvaro Uribe.
Uribe founded the PCD in 2013 in reaction to then-ongoing negotiations between the government and left-wing rebels who sought to end the long civil war.
The NCA program in Colombia “has engaged” with “Colombian law enforcement agencies to improve their capabilities,” according to British government documents viewed by Declassified. The objectives included “specialized police officers to be trained in priority intervention areas” as well as “relationships of trust forged with key units and individuals”.
But the NCA refused to reveal the names of these Colombian police units and individuals to us.
“Due to operational security, we cannot release any information about individuals or units,” a NCA spokesperson said. Declassified. This refusal also covered “the nature of the training provided”, they added.
The project does not appear on the NCA website or in any of its public documentation.
The British documents further note that the NCA “supported the formation of specialized units” in Colombia on “advanced operational practices” alongside “methods of intelligence gathering”.
The NCA did not respond to questions about the involvement of any of these police units in the recent protests in Colombia. “It is not the ANC’s business,” said its spokesperson. Declassified.
Britain has supported Colombian police in at least two other projects. In a program also running from 2015 to 2020, the Crown Prosecution Service, the prosecution service of the United Kingdom, provided “criminal justice advisers” whose role included “advising the police”.
A Foreign Office project is currently working “with the [Colombian] the police to pilot conflict resolution approaches ”.
These programs have all been managed through the UK’s £ 1.3 billion Intergovernmental Conflict, Stability and Security Fund, which has the stated objective of providing ‘activities to combat instability and prevent violence. conflicts which threaten British interests ”.
However, a parliamentary committee compared it to a “slush fund” to fund projects which “do not meet the needs of British national security”.
The National Crime Agency
The NCA was established in 2013 with the stated purpose of leading ‘the UK’s fight to reduce serious and organized crime’ and ‘protecting the public by targeting and prosecuting criminals who pose the greatest risk to the UK -United “.
She has worked in Colombia for years, although her activities are shrouded in secrecy. The only public domain information about its operations in Colombia comes from the BBC in 2015, when its reporter was part of the organization and provided uncritical coverage.
The BBC reporter described a raid carried out in the early hours of the morning by a group of Colombian special forces on a cocaine production laboratory near the border with Venezuela.
“The information necessary to find the laboratory and carry out the raid was gathered with the help of officers of the National Crime Agency (NCA) of the United Kingdom working in Colombia”, noted the journalist.
Other than this kind of carefully calibrated media exposure, it’s impossible to get any information about NCA operations in Colombia – or elsewhere.
Last year, Declassified filed a request with the NCA under the Freedom of Information Act, asking for the number of employees it had based in Colombia. “Any information originating from, or relating to, the NCA is granted an absolute exemption from disclosure,” the agency told us.
However, some clues are available as to the extent of the ANC’s presence in Colombia. A job posting for an administrator post for the agency based in the capital, Bogotá, notes the “wide spectrum of activities” of the ANC team in the country.
The NCA’s regional director in Bogotá since 2020 is Lindsey Kemp, who previously worked in the agency’s cybercrime unit.
Hasan Dodwell, director of London-based NGO Justice for Colombia, said Declassified: “The Colombian police are committing horrific abuses in response to the protests. Beat people to death, fire live ammunition at crowds, make mass arbitrary arrests, and stand ready to watch armed civilians shoot peaceful protesters.
But Dodwell said that while the current violence has gained international attention, similar abuses have been committed during protests in 2019 and 2020 with “almost total impunity for the police involved.”
He added: “Given this level of disregard for human rights, it is totally unacceptable that the British government refuses to disclose information about its operations with the Colombian police. There must be unequivocal condemnation and immediate suspension from any training or collaboration with units involved in abuses. “
“The UK government’s current approach apparently gives the green light for further abuse,” Dodwell said. DM
Matt Kennard is Head of Investigations at Declassified UK, an investigative journalism organization that covers the UK’s role in the world.
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This notice was published: 2021-06-11 06:53:26