A member of the leftist opposition party Democratic Pole on Tuesday filed suit against Colombia’s defense minister over ongoing ilegal recruitment practices in the army, according to El Espectador newspaper.
The alleged crimes filed against Juan Carlos Pinzon by congressman Alirio Uribe include arbitrary arrest and detention, unlawful extension of imprisonment, and abuse of authority, all of which are connected to the army’s use of draft raids in recruiting soldiers.
The forced drafting of Colombians who are unable to show a paper that exempts them from military service was deemed unconstitutional in 2011, but it is widely acknowledged that the practice continues throughout the country.
The raids are carried out in crowded public spaces like public transport hubs where the chances of detaining a person who has failed to comply with his military duty or has failed to obtain an exemption paper are highest.
According to Uribe, there have been an increase in complaints coming from young men and their families over the illegal draft raids. The congressman urged the armed forces to comply with Constitutional Court’s order to cease the raids.
In a debate in the House Representatives, Pinzon defended the actions of the army in its recruitment process, saying that military service is obligatory. He did, however, apologize to families “could have been some type of victim of a poor recruitment procedure.”
The Colombian army last week admitted its raids were against the law.
During the congressional debate, Pinzon also proposed establishing a universal military service under terms to be determined.
Colombia currently has compulsory military service for men over 18. Refusing or failing to carry out this duty is a punishable offense unless a person is exempted from service because he is physically or mentally unfit, an only child, the sole provider of a family or still in school.
The problem for many poor Colombians is that they are not able to pay the fee for the exemption paper in a timely manner, despite qualifying for exemption. Legally, those failing to obtain the so-called “libreta militar” are also not complying with the law. According to the court, those failing to obtain the “libreta militar” document are liable to be fined, but may not be detained.
For his part, the commander of the armed forces, General Juan Pablo Rodriguez, claimed that the “troops do not have as an institutional policy the violation of human rights of our young people,” vowing to investigate any individual cases.