Colombia: UN report blasts military justice bill

A team of 12 independent human rights experts from the UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights on Sept. 29 announced the contents of a letter written to the government and the congress of Colombia calling for reconsideration of Senate Bill 85, 2013, which would restructure and expand the jurisdiction of military courts. According to the rights experts, Bill No. 85 would give Colombian military courts extensive jurisdiction covering inter alia homicide, breaches of international humanitarian law, breaches of information and data protection and crimes against public security. The letter protested the potential for military courts to hear matters that would usually fall under the jurisdiction of civilian courts. The experts urged the government to limit the jurisdiction of military tribunals to charges "of a strictly military nature and allegedly committed by active members of the armed forces." The legislative process in Colombia is comprised of seven steps, and Bill No. 85 was originally introduced in September 2013.

A group of UN experts presented similar concerns two years ago with regard to a military expansion bill in Colombia. The Constitutional Court of Colombia in October 2013 declared the legislation unconstitutional. The court held that a constitutional amendment and statute expanding the military justice system is not lawful under the constitution. Magistrate Jorge Ivan Palacio announced the decision was based on "procedural defects" within the law. In July, Human Rights Watch called the military jurisdiction expansion bill a "recipe for impunity."

From Jurst, Oct. 2. Used with permission.