A string of amendments to Colombia’s controversial military justice reform, which aim to give the military new powers to combat criminal gangs known as “BACRIM,” will be introduced to Congress on Tuesday.
The amendment will reportedly allow Colombia’s army to engage with “illegal criminal groups” just as they would engage with rebel groups like the FARC and ELN, allowing the army to use all its firepower in future conflict with the gangs.
Under current legislation, despite posing a threat comparable to that of the guerrilla groups, the army is not permitted to approach the “BACRIM” as a military target.
Senate President Roy Barreras spoke out in favour of the reform.
“Of the 14,800 deaths to come out of conflict in 2012, less than 10% came as a result of combat with the guerillas, while a significant percentage comes from confrontation with the BACRIM,” said Barreras.
The initiative contains 98 articles which will amend the controversial military justice reform that was passed through Congress in late 2012, and which provoked extensive criticism from human rights groups.
Human Rights Watch condemned the original reform for allowing “military courts to ‘exclusively handle’ all violations of international humanitarian law by the security forces, except for crimes against humanity, genocide and forced disappearance.”
Additionally, a coalition of NGOs, activists, lawyers, and five congressmen, including the outspoken human rights watchdog Ivan Cepeda, filed suit before Colombia’s constitutional court in February 2013.