Twelve experts from the United Nations (UN) have urged the Colombia not to adopt a law which would expand the jurisdiction of military courts, fearing this would lead to impunity for human rights violators, according to El Espectador newspaper.
The UN experts claimed that the expansion of the military courts could compromise the independence and impartiality of the judiciary. They maintain that any alleged human rights violations committed by the armed forces against the civilian population should be tried in criminal courts, which are under civilian control.
Under the proposed law, extrajudicial executions, or “false positives,” would be tried in military courts, according to the human rights experts.
FACT SHEET: False Positives
The “false positives” scandal, which involved members of Colombia’s military killing nearly 4,000 civilians and dressing them up as enemy combatants in order to boost numbers of deceased militants, prompted the once invulnerable military to be stripped of its internal judicial system in 2008 because the armed forces dragged its feet prosecuting those responsible.
Since then, the military and the government have been fighting to reclaim military judicial autonomy.
In June of last year, Congress passed a similar bill, allowing the armed forces–which report to the President through the Defense Minister–to use their own tribunals for all crimes except seven designated as crimes against humanity. That bill was struck down as unconstitutional.
But another proposal for military judicial autonomy was put forward this year which contains many of the same characteristics of the defeated bill.
Human Rights Watch (HRW) has called it a “recipe for impunity.”
According to HRW’s Latin America Director Jose VivancoVivanco, a 2012 ruling from the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights found that Colombian military courts are “not the competent system of justice to investigate and, as appropriate, prosecute and punish the authors of human rights violations.”