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Colombia president defends constitutionality of peace law

Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos [official website, in Spanish] on Thursday intervened [press release, in Spanish] in the public hearing of the Constitutional Court [official website, in Spanish] to defend the Framework for Peace [JURIST report], a proposed constitutional amendment that brought about peace talks with the FARC and ELN [BBC backgrounders], two rebel paramilitary groups. The country has been plagued by an internal war with these rebel groups for the past five decades, and the president defended the amendment as the best chance for peace. Rights groups, including the Colombian Commission of Jurists (CCJ) [advocacy website], challenged the amendment because it vests the parliament with the discretion to decide which acts of war are applicable to the justice system. According to the CCJ and Human Rights Watch (HRW) [advocacy website], this discretion could lead to loopholes [HRW report] that allow violent criminals to escape justice. Santos defended the amendment as a vital prerequisite for peace, "Our commitment to the expectations and rights of the victims is serious," Santos said. "It's not about sacrificing justice to reach peace but how to achieve peace with the most justice." The representative for the CCJ responded, "In this case the cure could end up being worse than the disease," The Constitutional Court's decision has not yet been released.

The Colombian Congress [official website, in Spanish] approved [press release] the new law by a vote of 63-3 [JURIST report] last year. In December the representative to Colombia for the UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) [official website] Christian Salazar, called for a peaceful solution [JURIST report] to the country's ongoing violence. In June of last year, Santos signed legislation to compensate victims of the country's armed conflict after the country's senate passed [JURIST reports] it a month earlier. International entities were also involved in the country's violence. The US has been involved [PBS report] in supporting the rule of law in Colombia, as well as hosting several law suits [JURIST report] against multiple companies incorporated in the US that supported private paramilitary organizations for use against workers' interests.

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