Posted by Adriaan Alsema on Jun 22, 2009 Leave a comment

Controversy over proposed parliamentary immunity in Colombia

Colombia news - Congress

A government proposal to grant parliamentary immunity to Colombian
Congress caused controversy as more than half of the Congressmen is
being investigated for all sorts of crimes.

According to the government proposal, Congress should approve of investigations into members before the Supreme Court is allowed to formerly start an investigation and suspend the lawmaker.

Opponents of the proposal say the government is trying to hide criminal behavior by members of Congress and is stimulating impunity for those suspected of having found their way to Congress through paramilitary intimidation of voters. “All you have to do is change the M to a P and immunity becomes impunity,” presidential candidate Sergio Fajardo said.

According to Caracol Radio, 40 percent of Colombia’s senators is subject to a criminal investigation, while more than 100 of the country’s 166 Representatives are being investigated for some kind of crime.

“What is happening in Congress is pathetic. It has destroyed confidence in Colombia and this is a great damage they are causing the country,” the independent Fajardo said.

Interior and Justice Minister Fabio Valencia Cossio, promoter of the bill, denies the government is trying to achieve impunity for politicians, but is protecting “the dignity of Congressmen.” According to the Minister, the proposal seeks to “guarantee the legality of the arrests of Congressmen and that they obey due process.”

The Colombian government and the country’s judicial branch have clashed frequently after the Supreme Court opened the investigation into Congressmen — mostly from the government coalition — with alleged ties with demobilized paramilitary group AUC.