Colombian congressmen on Tuesday filed a lawsuit claiming that the controversial military justice reform is unconstitutional.
“Our suit demonstrates that the [military’s] jurisdiction was augmented illegally, that is has large flaws and that this is sufficient for the court to declare it unconstitutional,” Congressman Ivan Cepeda told Colombia Reports. “The reform gravely affects a substantial principle of the constitution, and that is the priciple that in a democratic society you must have swift and equal justice for everyone.”
The military justice reform, approved by congress in December and subject to much criticism from human rights groups and the UN, gives military tribunals greater jurisdiction in the prosecution of human rights crimes committed by soldiers. While seven crimes, including genocide, forced disappearances, extrajudicial executions, sexual violence, and torture, are still tried in civilian courts, other crimes under international law are to be tried by the military.
A coalition of NGOs, activists, lawyers, and five congressmen, including the outspoken human rights watchdog Ivan Cepeda, filed suit before Colombia’s constitutional court Tuesday morning.
In December, Human Rights Watch (HRW) condemned the military justice reform calling it “a setback for human rights.” According to HRW’s Latin America director, “the window being opened to impunity are enormous. A long list of heinous crimes such as mutilation, serious injury, cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment…and arbitrary detention, to mention a few examples, will go directly to the military courts.”
Colombia has a dark history of extrajudicial killings and human rights violations committed by the military. Colombian courts have been slow to prosecute. Many of the crimes, including the thousands of civilians killed by members of the armed forces who subsequently dressed their victims as guerrillas in order to present them as combat kills, remain unresolved.
BACKGROUND: False positives
Both President Juan Manuel Santos and Defense Minister Juan Carlos Pinzon have defended the reform and deny that it promotes impunity for crimes committed by soldiers.
“In the next few days the same group of congressmen (five in total) and many human rights organizations will deliver a second suit that touches on the substantive aspects of the problem…the reform is of such magnitude that it affects the identity of the Constitution,” Cepeda concluded.
- Interview with Congressman Ivan Cepeda
- Congresistas presentaron una demanda contra la reforma al fuero militar (El Colombiano)