A Colombian advisory commission denounced a congressional referendum to impose life sentences on convicted child murderers and rapists as illegitimate “populism.”
Colombian media reported that the commission, made up of lawyers, including former Supreme Court Justice Yesid Ramirez, published a report which argued that the bill “does not solve the underlying problems of impunity, crime reduction, and social rehabilitation of these criminals.”
The first problem the commission identified was what they called “punitive demagoguery.” According to the report, “these measures tend to be quite popular at the level of public opinion and give good returns to politicians who defend them, but have only limited effectiveness and are questionable to prevent crimes, but may aggravate many of the problems of the penal system.”
The report also argued that it is often the case that child rapists cannot control their impulses, which the commission felt is a psychological issue that should be treated and not necessarily punished. A leader of the Catholic Church held a similar position, and even extended the idea to “The Beast,” a Colombian serial child rapist convicted of 138 murders.
The proposed constitutional change would remove a current judicial limitation which prevents any punishment of life imprisonment. The referendum, which has already been approved by five different congressional bodies, only needs two more approvals, one by a commission in the House of Representatives and another by the House as a whole, before it is signed into law.
Although the the commission acknowledged the seriousness and scope of crimes against children, it maintained that “the life sentence goes against the legal and constitutional systems.”
The commission concluded that “if the proposal is adopted according to the text with which the signatures were collected, then the mandate arises to automatically impose life imprisonment for all these crimes and, in this case, it is very clear that the project violates core principles of the rule of law (such as human dignity, equality, proportionality, gradual penalties, the act, the harm, the guilt, the autonomy and freedom of the people; additionally, the capacity to re-socialize the human being), so that it amounts to a substitution of the Constitution.”