The United Nations warned Colombia that its proposed military justice reform could allow impunity of war crimes on Tuesday.
Among other organizations’ protests, the UN High Commission for Human Rights urged President Juan Manuel Santos and Congress President Roy Barreras to review a proposed judicial military reform and to consider its potential consequences of soldiers and police escaping justice.
“If adopted, this reform would seriously undermine previous efforts undertaken by the Colombian government to ensure that human rights violations, allegedly committed by members of the Colombian military and police forces, are duly investigated and perpetrators held to account,” said the UN human rights spokesman, Cecile Pouilly at a news briefing in Geneva on Tuesday.
The proposed military reform, pertaining to articles 116, 152 and 221 of Colombia’s Constitution, would give more power to Colombia’s military in investigating and prosecuting human rights violations committed by military and police personnel, crimes which the UN argues should be investigated by regular criminal courts instead.
The UN already expressed concern for the reform in October and are reiterating their pending apprehension of the proposed bill which they believe sends the “wrong message to the members of the security forces on the consequences of participating in the commission of violations of human rights and international humanitarian law.”
Colombia’s Defense Minister Juan Carlos Pinzon, however, has defended the reform, stating that “By no means will there be impunity. The intention is to have especially strong judicial investigations…What is sought is less impunity.”
Colombia’s military courts were stripped of jurisdiction in 2008 when thousands of cases of human rights violations committed by members of the military had proved to unjustly be absolved by the military tribunals.