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Colombia puts security forces under martial jurisdiction

The Colombia Senate [official website, in Spanish] passed a bill [press release, in Spanish] on Tuesday that will create a military court for armed forces and police forces who commit crimes. Reportedly, the new law will allow for any armed forces' crimes to be prosecuted by military tribunals [Reuters report] rather than civil courts. A spokesperson for the UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) [official website] last month expressed serious concern [JURIST report] regarding the proposed constitutional reform. Spokesperson Cecile Pouilly claimed this would "seriously undermine previous efforts undertaken by the Colombian Government to ensure that human rights violations, allegedly committed by members of the Colombian military and police forces, are duly investigated and perpetrators held to account." The bill passed 57 to 7 and goes to the president to be signed.

Colombia has drawn attention from UN rights bodies several times recently. In October UN experts urged [JURIST report] Colombia to reconsider this constitutional reform. In August UN Special Rapporteur on the rights of indigenous people James Anaya [official website] also called upon [JURIST report] the government of Colombia to advance its negotiations with indigenous authorities in northern Cauca regarding the military presence in the area, as well as other pressing issues. Last December the representative to Colombia for the OHCHR called for a peaceful solution [JURIST report] to the country's ongoing armed conflict involving hostages held by paramilitary rebels.

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