Saturday, December 13, 2014

Colombian Army response to criticism about conscription roundups

The Colombian Army has issued a policy statement in response to complaints that have been raised about its efforts to round up draft evaders. It says in part:
To improve the process for selection and recruitment in light of the military situation of Colombians and considering complaints regarding possible irregularities in recruiting, the Army Command announces: 
1. In Colombia for 50 years an armed conflict has been characterized by the violent actions of the FARC terrorists, Bacrim and ELN, whose daily demonstrations are reflected in attacks on the civilian population, infrastructure, and troops. These have been countered by the presence of the State through the security forces, which is why the Constitution of 1991 provides in Article 216 for the duty of Colombians to take up arms when public need so requires. Article 217 states the purpose of the Armed Forces as well:
Article 216: The police will be composed exclusively of the Armed Forces and National Police. All Colombians are obligated to take up arms in time of public need to defend national independence and public institutions. The law will provide for exemption from military service and the privileges of service therein.
Article 217: The Nation will be defended by a permanent military forces consisting of the Army, Navy and Air Force. The Armed Forces have as their primary objective the defense of sovereignty, independence, national territorial integrity and constitutional order. The law will prescribe the system of replacements in the Armed Forces and promotions, rights and obligations of their members and the special regime of career benefits and disciplinary.
2. Based on these constitutional principles, Congress passed Law 48 of 1993, which governs Service Recruitment and Mobilization, whose mission is to incorporate the best human potential for the defense of national sovereignty. The law also prescribes the procedure for defining the military status of citizens who by reason of exemption or disability are unsuitable for military service.
3. To the extent that the Army has recovered the country have increased responsibilities for control of strategic assets (roads, energy and the mining sector) in line with the development, progress and welfare of the country, this demands greater manpower in Colombia's defense and security activities.
Therefore, the cooperation of citizens is necessary to contribute to the common good, the maintenance of institutions, territorial integrity and national sovereignty. However, the opposite is true today: young people who have reached the age of majority are reluctant to submit to recruitment, thereby evading their constitutional duty and breaking the law.
At present there are approximately 950,000 such offenders, which forces recruiting authorities to develop compulsory measures, laid down in Articles 14 and 41(g) of Act 48 of 1993 and declared enforceable by Constitutional Court judgment C-879 of 2011. The power to compel can mean nothing other than that the authorities can take effective steps to ensure citizens' compliance with a constitutional duty.
Article 14 of Law 48 of 1993 establishes the obligation of citizens to register for the definition of the military situation, and the Court in this regard indicates that these citizens, when compelled by recruiting authorities, may be required momentarily in order to encourage them to overtake the registration process manner.
For its part, Article 41, paragraph (g) of the Act indicates that those who are summoned to concentration and are not present on the date, time and place indicated by the recruiters, are declared missing. In this case, the Court stated that these citizens can be taken to the Military District to complete the enlistment process.
4. The National Army in order to improve the processes and procedures meet the compulsory measures covered by Article 14 and 41(g) of the above rule, orders and instructions issued to all military units in order to standardize processes definition of the military situation attending the provisions of existing regulations and case law for the service of recruitment and mobilization.
These instructions are intended to strengthen all stages of the selection process and enlistment:
  • Increase dissemination of information regarding the process of defining the military situation and the current regulations at regional and national levels. 
  • Strengthen the training process of enlistment committees for compliance with standards and to ensure fair treatment to citizens and respect for their rights. 
  • To guide citizens to the process of definition of the military situation and the development of modified compulsory measures as permitted by the Constitutional Court. 
  • Optimize the means to verify civilians' military status. 
  • Order the presence of prosecutors needed to monitor the development of the compulsory process and enlistment. 
  • Record compulsory measures and enlistment to ensure transparency in the development of these processes. 
  • Ensure proper supervision so that citizens' documents and grounds of exemption are neither withheld nor destroyed.
  • To ensure that the basic needs of youth are met while they are in the ranks.
5. The Army is working on a bill to reform the current Conscription Act, i.e., the Act 48 of 1993, with these goals:
  • Unification of modalities in military service. 
  • Unification of time in military service. 
  • Increased bonuses. 
  • Increased incentives and privileges for soldier in educational and employment opportunities. 
  • Harmonize the laws that have taken effect since Act 48 of 1993. 
  • Creating a social service in the National Police.

6. Finally, the Army invites the general public to consult the institutional means, the website, social networks, or visit military districts that are located throughout the national territory in order to define the military situation and prevent violations contained in the law. The Army also emphasizes that military service is a privilege meant for the best men of the country, with discipline, courage and respect, committed work for peace, freedom, justice and the welfare of Colombians. [Very rough Google translation]

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