Monday, July 27, 2015

More on the reform of military jurisdiction in Colombia

Pres. Juan Manuel Santos
Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos has just approved the law which restructures military criminal justice and creates a special body to assist the Prosecutor as well as a Technical Investigations Corps, both of which will be dedicated exclusively to supporting investigations of persons in uniform.

These bodies will be autonomous and will not be dependent on the institutional chain of command. Each  investigation will be independent in order to guarantee a transparent procedure.

Article 22 of the new law provides that the Attorney General of Military and Police Crime will be selected from a list of candidates by the President (who constitutionally is the Commander in Chief of the Armed Forces) for a term of four years that cannot be extended.

Some critics have commented on the lack of independence of this jurisdiction given that the Presidency has been granted the power to designate whom it investigates. It has been criticized as "an arm of the Executive and is not independent because its components are in the armed forces and no one is going to want to fight with one's superior."

The prosecutors who litigate before the Superior Military and Police Tribunal are dependent on the Attorney General of Military and Police, but they will also be elected for eight year terms by the President.  The Government still has to regulate how candidates will be chosen for eligibility, but this is still being worked on.

The specialized and regular military and police courts have been revived and will function "throughout the national territory" and will be designated by the head of this jurisdiction.  These courts will have jurisdiction over cases related to military and police service, which means that cases involving violations of human rights will be expressly excluded, specifically, cases involving "false positives."

There will also be a Superior Military and Police Court will serve as the highest instance of jurisdiction and which will be comprised of magistrates, also selected by the President, for eight year terms that cannot be extended.

With the President's signature, this law has entered into force, but it is clear that there will be claims that it is unconstitutional.  The Armed Forces will defend the need for a separate jurisdiction and the debate will be opened anew.

1 comment:

  1. The use of nonrenewable terms for the prosecutor and judges is noteworthy. The implication is that an official who truly has a fixed term is more likely to be independent of the appointing authority.


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