Colombia: New Reforms Could Allow Army to Raid and Arrest Without Judicial Authorisation

Amnesty International UK Director Kate Allen said:

'This decision will have disastrous impact on human rights. It will allow the Colombian military to continue its campaign to intimidate and discredit human rights defenders and social organisations. The military, which has an appalling human rights record, will now have the power to investigate and detain civilians.'

The granting of judicial police powers to the military is in clear violation of international human rights treaties to which Colombia is signatory. It is also contrary to repeated recommendations by the United Nations Commission on Human Rights and the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights of the Organisation of American States.

Kate Allen concluded:

'This measure is not only flouting the government's repeated commitments to the international community to act within the rule of law but also failing Colombia's obligation to guarantee basic human rights standards.'

General information

Efforts to grant judicial police powers to the military have been repeatedly declared unconstitutional by Colombia's Constitutional Court. Attempts by then President Andrés Pastrana to give such powers to the armed forces, a measure included in the now defunct Defence and National Security Law, were declared unconstitutional on 11 April 2002. In a ruling, made public on 25 November 2002, the Court also threw out similar measures contained in Decree 2002, issued by the government of President Uribe on 9 September 2002.

In a letter sent to Congress on 12 May, Amnesty International asked the members of Colombia's legislature to reject this proposal, arguing that 'Congress has a key role to play in upholding Colombia's constitutional system. If Congress approves the restoration of judicial police powers to the military one of the most important tenets of human rights protection in Colombia will be seriously undermined.'

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