Colombia’s Congress approved a controversial reform that seeks to give military tribunals jurisprudence over crimes committed by the military after previous attempts were struck down by the Constitutional Court.
This constitutional reform contains several fundamental changes in the way that Colombia’s security forces are tried against crimes and are controversial because human rights defenders have claimed that the reform promotes impunity for thousands of crimes committed by members of the military.
According to the new bill, military tribunals that are composed of active or retired members of the security forces will prosecute and judge colleagues charged with crimes.
The bill was supported by the entire Congress except for the leftist opposition who claimed the reform could mean impunity for thousands of members of the police and armed forces who are accused of human rights violations.
Opposition party Democratic Pole announced it would challenge the bill before the Constitutional Court which struck down similar reform attempts on two previous occasions.
Critics have noted that this removes independence and accountability from the already slow-moving trials of military crimes.
Colombia’s Minister of Defense Juan Carlos Pinzon identified the passing of the latest reform as a “great advancement,” giving the forces “the tools and institutional ability to have a greater independence for Military and Police in Criminal Justice”.
The commander of the Armed Forces, General Juan Pablo Rodriguez, told press that “true justice for our men is achieved.”
According to Senator Jose Obdulio Gaviria, a conservative opposition Senator whose Democratic Center party voted in favor of the government proposal, told The Associated Press that ongoing investigations the killing of civilians will remain in the hands of the civilian Prosecutor general’s Office.
Members of Colombia’s military executed more than 4,000 civilians to present them as guerrillas killed in combat and face charges for hundreds of other human rights violations.
Colombia: Aprueban reforma al fuero penal militar (El Nuevo Herald)