After a meeting at the Casa de Nariño Tuesday, the Colombian government decided against declaring a “state of exception” over the emergence of illegal armed groups in the Andean nation, but reached an agreement with Superior Council of Justice regarding ongoing impunity for criminals in remote regions in Colombia.
“The Superior Council of Justice committed to creating [the positions of ] national judges of guarantee who will attend to regional problems, in order to protect the vulnerability of judges in small municipalities … because in various municipalities in the country, where there are criminal groups, the judges are very vulnerable and are exposed to risks trying to beat narco-trafficking,” Colombian President Alvaro Uribe said in an address, following the Casa de Nariño meeting.
Uribe said he hoped that the Superior Council would put their commitment into action as soon as possible. The president added that the Prosecutor General’s Office had committed to visit the communities where problems were occurring, to ensure that there were not any delays in prosecution due to a lack of personnel, nor “phenomena” that might hinder the course of justice.
To finish, Uribe said that the Council on Criminal Policy will convene Wednesday through Friday to continue evaluating the issue.
The proposed state of exception refers to article 213 of the Colombian constitution, which is used in times of “internal disturbance, or serious disruption of public order which poses an imminent threat to institutional stability.”
Referring to the criteria required for issuing the decree, former Constitutional Court President, Alfredo Beltran, said that it “was not the case.”
Special decrees issued by the government during the course of a state of exception are subject to supervision by the Constitutional Court.
In order to declare the state of exception the president must obtain the signatures of all the ministers and has to have “substantive grounds and reasons for declaring a state of emergency.”
Uribe came under fire after proposing calling a state of exception, with critics accusing him of suggesting the declaration in order to make an executive order to appoint a new prosecutor general. The election of the prosecutor general is the responsibility of the Supreme Court, but has been delayed for months because the court cannot reach the necessary consensus on a candidate.
Uribe has criticized the delay in electing a new prosecutor general, and said earlier in June that the power to choose the official should be given to the president.
The president denied criticisms, saying that a declaration of exception would only be used to deal with the problem of emerging illegal armed groups and criminals, and that he would never use such a declaration to appoint a prosecutor general.
One intention of the state of exception is to create a body of “judges of guarantee,” who would replace municipal judges for the 90-day duration of the period, and provide prosecutors with better tools to combat criminal groups, according to the government.