The president of Colombia’s Senate drafted a legislative act which intends to provide all members of Congress with political immunity and the right to appeal, reported newspaper El Espectador on Wednesday.
According to the draft submitted by Senator Juan Manuel Corzo, “members of Congress will not be able to be charged, prosecuted, arrested, detained, or deprived of liberty without prior authorization of the respective house, except in cases of blatant offense. In the event that the lifting of the immunity is passed by lawmakers, members of Congress lose their inauguration and are immediately available to the judicial authority. If the lifting of the immunity is denied, the defendant may not be identified, prosecuted, or tried until after the end of his term or until the termination of his office.”
The recently submitted amendment has drawn criticism because of the number of members of Congress who are charged or convicted for corruption or ties to criminal or terrorist organizations.
Polo Democratico representative Alexander Lopez said that “Congress should ensure their right, like that of all citizens, to the establishment of a second hearing. But another thing is that it is a pretext to revive congressional immunity. This next immunity is to seek parliamentary impunity.“
The senator defended himself by stating that “this proposal is to strengthen the legislature against the striking imbalance between the branches of power. The executive branch received extraordinary powers, and the judiciary branch also has benefits of justice reform. This initiative is to strengthen the legislative branch.”
Representative Heriberto Sanabria welcomes the amendment to the constitution. “[Congress] must restore immunity and the right to appeal, we are only human beings on planet earth and we need a second judge. The legislation said that in cases of crimes against humanity, drug trafficking, terrorism, there can be no immunity, that is the exception.“
There are currently more than 45 former members of Congress under investigation for alleged ties to paramilitary groups. Others are facing corruption charges.