[JURIST] A team of 12 independent human rights experts from the UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights [official website] announced [UN news report] Monday the contents of a letter [text] written to the government [LOC backgrounder] and the congress of the Republic of Colombia that argues Colombia should reconsider the possible adoption of Senate Bill-85, 2013 [text, in Spanish] to restructure and expand the scope of the jurisdiction of military courts. According to the human rights experts, Bill No. 85 would give Colombian military courts extensive jurisdiction covering inter alia homicide, breaches of international humanitarian law, breaches of information and data protection and crimes against public security. The strongest argument in opposition to the bill is the potential for military courts to hear matters that would usually fall under the jurisdiction of civilian courts. The experts urged the government to limit the jurisdiction of military tribunals to criminal offenses and “breaches of discipline of a strictly military nature and allegedly committed by active members of the armed forces.” The legislative process in Colombia [GlobaLex resource] is comprised of seven steps, and Bill No. 85 was originally introduced in September 2013.
A group of UN experts presented similar concerns two years ago with regard to a military expansion bill in Colombia. In October 2013 the Constitutional Court of Colombia [official website] declared [JURIST] the legislation unconstitutional. The court held that a constitutional amendment and statute expanding the military justice system is not lawful under the constitution. Magistrate Jorge Ivan Palacio announced the decision was based on “procedural defects” within the law. In July Human Rights Watch [advocacy website] called the military jurisdiction expansion bill a “recipe for impunity” [HRW report].