Washington, D.C., July 8, 2014,
Juan Carlos Pinzón, Defense Minister of Colombia, Bogotá, D.C. – COLOMBIA
Dear Minister Pinzón,
I am writing to express my serious concern over the imminent passage of the military justice system reform bill you submitted to Congress in September 2013. Senate bill number 85 of 2013—which has already passed two of four required Congressional debates—would open the door to unlawful killings known as “false positives” being transferred from civilian prosecutors to the military justice system. Under the bill, the military justice system would also handle other past and possible future human rights crimes by military members—including rape, inhuman treatment and mutilation—in direct contradiction with Colombia’s international law obligations. Furthermore, the bill provides that the military justice system would investigate military members accused of illegal interceptions, illegal arms trafficking, and conspiring with paramilitaries or criminal gangs to commit crimes such as torture, forced disappearances, and drug trafficking, which would be a recipe for impunity.
The bill explicitly assigns to military courts the crimes for which false positive cases are currently pursued by civilian prosecutors. Article 8 of the bill provides that military courts would handle “homicide” and international humanitarian law (IHL) violations committed by military personnel. The thousands of false positive cases under investigation by the Attorney General’s Office are pursued as the crimes of “homicide of protected persons,” “aggravated homicide,” or “homicide.” The Colombian Criminal Code (C.C.) defines “homicide of protected persons” (art. 135 of the C.C.) as an IHL violation, and “aggravated homicide” (art. 104 of the C.C.) and “homicide” (art. 103 of the C.C.) are both offenses contained in the “homicide” chapter of the Criminal Code. Therefore, all three of the crimes for which false positive cases are currently pursued fall into two categories of offenses that the bill would assign to military courts.
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