Wednesday, May 20, 2020

Colombian decree extending military service for 3 months challenged as unconstitutional

Constitutional Court of ColombiaIn Colombia, obligatory military service has been extended for three months because of the emergency caused by the novel corona virus.  Under Colombian law, all emergency measures pass automatically to the Constitutional Court  for review.  DeJusticia and the Association for Civil Rights (Asociacion por los Derechos Civiles), two non-governmental organizations (NGOs), have studied decree 541 of April 15, 2020 and are arguing that the decree  is unconstitutional because it bears no relation to the health emergency.  According to the Defense Ministry between 1993 and 2015, 1,402.209 young people have served in the Armed Forces, which is obligatory in Colombia.

The NGOs presented a brief to the Court affirming that not only is the extension unconstitutional but it is also arbitrary.  The extension of time of military service does not bear a direct and specific relationship with the state of emergency, which concerns the propagation of the corona virus in the Colombian health system and measures of mitigation.  In addition, they charge that the measure "implies a limitation to the rights of free development of one's personality" (Art. 16 Constitution) and the freedom to choose a profession or occupation (Art. 26).  It also constitutes an extension of the continuing risk to the right to life.

The State, for its part, is defending the measure, arguing that the decree directly confronts the challenge of maintaining the effective functioning of the Armed Forces, in favor of guaranteeing public security throughout the national territory, maintaining the conditions necessary for the exercise of rights and liberties, realizing campaigns of humanitarian aid and supervising strict compliance with sanitary measures.

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