Colombia’s Congress on Wednesday approved a bill that seeks to guarantee the legal defense of soldiers who are on trial for alleged crimes committed while on duty.
The bill was passed through Congress with urgency after a controversial military justice reform that sought to transfer crimes committed by the military to military tribunals was deemed unconstitutional by the country’s Constitutional Court in October.
Thousands of members of the security forces are implicated in criminal cases. Some 4,000 soldiers and policemen are suspected of having killed civilians in order to cook the books on the military’s effectiveness fighting leftist rebel groups and drug traffickers.
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According to Defense Minister Juan Carlos Pinzon, who proposed the reform on behalf of the administration of President Juan Manuel Santos, the newly approved bill will effectively give legal guarantees to military members on trial, allowing the armed forces to “act more directly and forcefully when defending themselves against criminals and terrorists.”
Following its approval in Congress, the bill will now be sent to the president for final approval after which the Constitutional Court tests its legality.