Colombia’s justice minister rejects criticism by Human Rights Watch that said that a government proposal to increase the use of military tribunals would lead to impunity for human rights violations and open the doors to prosecutions by the International Criminal Court.
The plans to expand military jurisdiction over cases of abuses by security forces, which are contained in a justice system reform bill currently in its last congressional stage, would “dramatically reverse” progress made in investigating human rights violations, claimed the New York-based human rights organization.
“Of course impunity is not the goal of the reform proposed by the Government to Congress, it will also not be the consequence of its eventual approval,” said Minister Juan Carlos Esguerra.
“Colombia has no concern about the possibility that certain acts will be investigated by the International Criminal Court. Having signed the Treaty of Rome, Colombia voluntarily accepted the jurisdiction of the Court,” Esguerra added.
The reform bill proposes that all acts committed during military operations are presumed to be related to service, in direct contradiction with multiple rulings and decisions by Colombia’s Constitutional Court, Supreme Court and Superior Council of the Judicature. In cases referenced by HRW, the courts have stated human rights violations and other conduct “contrary to the constitutional function of the security forces” are never related to service, and so must always be investigated, prosecuted and judged by the civilian justice system.
But according to the minister, the reform will neither expand “the scope of military jurisdiction to so-called false positives, nor will the military justice ‘automatically assume jurisdiction over cases of torture and rape of civilians committed by members of the security forces during these operations’,” as HRW Americas director Jose Miguel Vivanco asserted.
Colombia’s Supreme Court assumed the criminal investigations against military personnel in 2009 after the breaking of the “false positives” scandal and growing criticism on country’s military tribunals for granting impunity to military personnel.
Colombia’s Supreme Court and other high courts have withdrawn support for the government’s justice reform proposal, claiming it is an “attack on the structure of the democratic state” as defined in Colombia’s constitution.
Colombia’s congress, where the government coalition has an overwhelming majority, is close to approving the justice reform.