Two bills were introduced in recent days, but there are doubts around these
During his presidential campaign, Iván Duque proposed uniting the high courts of Colombian justice, as a strategy to optimize the judicial branch. For many sectors of Colombian society, this idea was frightening. The detractors of this initiative feared that it was an attempt to concentrate the judicial power, but like any campaign promise, it was not taken too seriously by other sectors.
Leer en español: Colombia: ¿A quién beneficia la reforma de justicia?
However, in these days, there have been two proposals for a justice reform that the Democratic Center has formulated. One of them is what Congresswoman Paloma Valencia, supported by the former president and senator, Álvaro Uribe Vélez, presented last week before the Senate of the Republic. The project was rejected instantly for two reasons.
First, the proposal aimed to eliminate the Constitutional Court and the Supreme Court, while at the same time it proposed a single superior court. Again, there was fear of the concentration of the judiciary power.
However, Senator Paloma Valencia did not stop there and proposed that an article contemplated in the Constitution of 1886 should be revived, which would shield any congress representative from an eventual capture unless the Congress itself approved it.
This would not be problematic if within Congress there were alliances between parties that allowed to protect the congressmen for their own interests. Since the Democratic Center is the governing party and four others have a coalition with it, the proposal could arise conditions for the impunity of the crimes of legislators.
However, this bill is not the flag of the Democratic Center to reform justice, but the one that the government prepares, that is, the one that comes from the original idea of Ivan Duque. The general characteristics of this project, still under construction, is that of reforming the tutela resource.
Tutela is the most important tool available to the Colombian judicial system to respect, claim, and establish fundamental rights. Thus, any citizen can use this tool to enforce the rights that he considers are being violated. The government intends to limit the scope of this resource, proposing specific times to interpose it. Hence, the first wave of protest against the initiative by social organizations and the presidents of the high courts.
Although Tutela has sometimes been used in ways other than those conceived in its function, as is the case of the "Tutelatones", it is not an excuse to try to make an open judicial process and include one more inaccessible for the population. It would be an outrageous abuse of the defense of fundamental rights. Fortunately, in Congress the resistance to reform tutela is considerable, so in real terms it could not be touched.
Now, the other key points do not contemplate a union of the high courts to facilitate the concentration of the judicial power. In fact, the Superior Council of the Judiciary, in charge of supervising the office of the judicial branch, would be eliminated and replaced with a new organization. However, this is not a new issue, since 2015 there is a constitutional mandate for the replacement of this body; the reform only seeks to comply with the law.
Another point of the reform, in terms of the functions of the high courts, is that some of the tasks of the Council of State and the Constitutional Court will also be assumed by the Supreme Court. Thus, this last agency will be in charge of the cassation processes - that is to say, of the processes of revision of judicial sentences because of a misinterpretation of the law - as well as the unification of jurisprudence, or better said, the egalitarian application of the law.
Besides that, there are no signs of greater manipulation of the judicial order in Colombia contemplated in the reform presented by the government. What does this imply? The common criticism for both bills is that they could, potentially, mean an index of impunity in high-profile judicial processes, such as those faced by former president and senator Álvaro Uribe Vélez.
A hypothetical union of the high courts could compromise the independence of the judicial branch when it comes to judging cases such as those of Uribe. However, this is not the case at this precise moment. For now, there will be no guarantee of impunity because the reform, in its process, seems to seek the optimization of the judicial system.
LatinAmerican Post | Iván Parada Hernández
Translated from “Colombia: ¿A quién beneficia la reforma de justicia?”
* The opinion of the editor does not represent the newspaper