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UN rights commissioner concerned about Colombia military justice reforms

A spokesperson for the UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) [official website] on Tuesday expressed serious concern [text] regarding Colombia's proposed constitutional reform to their military justice system. The proposed reform seeks to alter the scope of Colombia's military criminal justice system. Should the proposal be adopted, the investigations and trials of military personnel suspected of war crimes and arbitrary detention will fall under the the scope of the military justice system. Spokesperson Cecile Pouilly claims this will "seriously undermine previous efforts undertaken by the Colombian Government to ensure that human rights violations, allegedly committed by members of the Colombian military and police forces, are duly investigated and perpetrators held to account." While she admits the proposal specifically excludes "crimes against humanity and most gross human rights violations", the fact that the military will be responsible for determining the specific crimes is another concern. Pouilly further emphasized the Colombian government should reconsider the reform in the interest of preserving accountability for military personel who commit human rights abuses.

Colombia has drawn attention from UN rights bodies several times recently. In October UN experts urged [JURIST report] Colombia to reconsider this constitutional reform. In August UN Special Rapporteur on the rights of indigenous people James Anaya [official website] also called upon [JURIST report] the government of Colombia to advance its negotiations with indigenous authorities in northern Cauca regarding the military presence in the area, as well as other pressing issues. Last December the representative to Colombia for the OHCHR called for a peaceful solution [JURIST report] to the country's ongoing armed conflict involving hostages held by paramilitary rebels.

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Paper Chase is JURIST's real-time legal news service, powered by a team of 30 law student reporters and editors led by law professor Bernard Hibbitts at the University of Pittsburgh School of Law. As an educational service, Paper Chase is dedicated to presenting important legal news and materials rapidly, objectively and intelligibly in an accessible format.

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