After two years of wrangling, the Colombian Congress approved a judicial reform bill that reduces judicial power while giving the executive and legislative branches the upper hand. But after a popular uproar, the bill was rejected by President Juan Manuel Santos and was sent back to Congress for review. The ill-fated bill provides immunity to the members of Congress who were before subject to judicial review by the Supreme Court. Under the previous law, the Supreme Court investigated and prosecuted members of congress involved with death-squad paramilitary groups and prosecuted the cases of illegal wire tapping carried by the state’s intelligence service (DAS). Under the proposed bill, the 1,300 open investigations of government officials including judges and military personnel will remain in limbo alongside the 103 parliament members who may be freed if the bill becomes law.
In other words, the bill was not a reform, but a real coup in which the only institution that has remained least contaminated by narco-dollars is finally brought into conformity. This proposed bill compromises fundamental elements of the rule of law and good governance. If this bill is promulgated without fundamental changes that address the loopholes for all crimes committed by agents of the state, then the political establishment will be granted continued impunity. Stay tuned.
For more from Nazih Richani's blog, Colombian Cuadernos, visit nacla.org/blog/cuadernos-colombianos, or see the NACLA Report July/August 2009, "Coercion Incorporated: Paramilitary Colombia." Subscribe to NACLA