Military tribunals must be presided over by civilians, said Colombia’s President of the House of Representatives Tuesday.
Simon Gaviria said a military criminal justice system run by the Armed Forces would create an “internal conflict,” whereas civilian management would “help ensure a well designed process, full of guarantees for the accused,” reported Radio Caracol.
Government proposals to dramatically increase the use of military tribunals, which form part of a sweeping justice system reform bill, have been fiercely criticized by human rights advocates who say the plan would virtually guarantee impunity for military violations of humanitarian law. The bill would “dramatically reverse” progress made in investigating human rights violations in Colombia, said New York-based NGO Human Rights Watch earlier this month.
The government has rejected such criticism, but did announce Thursday that a “committee of eminent, illustrious Colombians” — including lawyers, human rights experts and representatives from other national monitoring bodies — would study the proposals and make any recommendations it saw fit.
The head of the new advisory committee, Manuel Jose Cepeda, said it would have open and transparent discussions to find a “balanced and appropriate direction for this issue of great importance.”
However according to Gaviria, the very idea of military-run tribunals is untenable. He said, “It is fundamental that such justice be organized by civilians. [It] can not be in the hands of the military, and [it] should have a properly trained body and a technical, legal advocacy for the military, and that would serve to heal any questions that exist in front of the subject of human rights.”