THE POLITICAL AND LEGAL SYSTEM IN COLOMBIA
A. EARLIER CONSTITUTIONAL
PROVISIONS THAT PROVIDED THE FRAMEWORK FOR THE POLITICAL, LEGAL AND
HUMAN RIGHTS SYSTEM IN COLOMBIA
The 1886 Constitution of Colombia examined under the section on
the Legal and Political System of Colombia in the Commission's 1981
report, was based on earlier constitutions in Colombian history:
the Constitutional Act of the Independent Free State of El
Socorro, August 15, 1810; the Constitution of Cundinamarca, March 30,
1811; the Constitution of the Republic of Tunja, December 9, 1811; the
Constitution of the State of Antioquia, March 21, 1812; the
Constitution of the State of Cartagena de Indias, June 15, 1812; the
Constitution of the Republic of Cundinamarca, July 18, 1812; the
Constitution of the State of Mariquita, June 21, 1815; the
Constitution of August 30, 1821; the Constitution of April 29, 1830;
the Constitution of the State of Nueva Granada, February 29, 1832; the
Constitution of Nueva Granada, April 20, 1843; the Constitution of
Nueva Granada, March 20, 1853; the Political Constitution for the
Granadian Confederation, May 22, 1858, and the Constitution of the
United States of Colombia, May 8, 1863.
The Constitution of the Republic of Colombia adopted on August
4, 1886, was amended by, inter alia, Legislative Act No. 3 of
October 3, 1910, Legislative Act No. 1 of August 5, 1936, and
Legislative Act No. 1 of February 16, 1945.
HISTORY OF THE NATIONAL CONSTITUTIONAL ASSEMBLY
The history behind the new Constitution of Colombia adopted in
1991 is as follows: via
Decree No. 1926, dated August 24, 1990, the Government of President César
Gaviria Trujillo convened a National Constitutional Assembly.
On December 5, 1990, the people of Colombia elected the 70
members of that Assembly. It
was an historic election in that the voters and candidates included
former members of the guerrilla movement, recently reassimilated into
mainstream society, among them the leaders of the April 19th Movement
(M-19). The outcome of
the election was as follows:
Partido Liberal: 25
Assemblymen; Alianza Democrática M-19: 18; Movimiento de Salvación
Nacional: 11; Partido Social Conservador: 5; independent Conservative
Party slates: 4; Unión Patriótica: 2; the Indigenous Movement: 2;
the Evangelical Movement: 2; Esperanza, Paz y Libertad: 2; Partido
Revolucionario de los Trabajadores: 1; Movimiento Indígena Quintín
Lame: 1. These last two
assemblymen were elected but do not have the right to vote in the
Serpa of the Liberal Party, Antonio Navaro Wolff of the M-19
Democratic Alliance and Alvaro Gómez of the National Salvation
Movement were elected presidents of the National Constitutional
THE 1991 CONSTITUTION
After 6 months in session, on July 5, 1991, the National
Constitutional Assembly enacted the new Constitution, which consists
of 380 articles and 60 transitory provisions.
This report contains a very brief description of the new
Colombian Constitution, emphasizing the main features of the political
structure of the Colombian State. Also mentioned are the human rights provisions contained in
that Constitution, with an indication of the specific article wherein
each human right is addressed.
Under Title I, on the Fundamental Principles, articles 1
through 10 provide the following frames of reference:
Colombia is a State organized as a single, decentralized,
participatory and pluralistic republic, founded upon respect for
human dignity, the work and the solidarity of its people and to
ensure that the general welfare prevails. The essential functions of the Colombian State are to serve
the community, promote general prosperity and guarantee the
effectiveness of the principles, rights and duties established in the
Constitution; to enable all its citizens to have a voice in the
decisions that affect them and in the economic, political,
administrative and cultural life of the Nation; to defend the Nation's
independence, preserve its territorial integrity, and ensure peaceful
coexistence and justice; it adds that the authorities of the Republic
are instituted to protect the life, honor, property,
beliefs, and the other rights and freedoms of all residents of
Colombia and to ensure that the State and private parties fulfill
their social obligations.
The fundamental principles set forth in Articles 1 and 2 of the
Constitution contain the bases upon which the rule of Colombian law
and respect for and defense of human rights rest: that sovereignty
resides exclusively in the people from which the public power emanates
and that it is the people who exercise sovereignty, either directly or
through their representatives.
Article 4 provides that the Constitution is the law of laws and
that in the event of some incompatibility between a provision of the
Constitution and a law, the provisions of the Constitution shall take
precedence; under article 5, the State recognizes the primacy of
the individual's inalienable rights, without discrimination of any
kind, and protects the family as the basic institution of society.
Other basic principles are that individuals who have violated
the law or the Constitution are answerable exclusively to the
Colombian authorities; that public servants are answerable for failing
to perform their functions or overstepping their authority; that the
State recognizes and protects ethnic diversity; that it is the
obligation of the State and of its parts to protect the property and
cultural heritage of the Nation; that foreign relations are based on
national sovereignty, respect for the self-determination of peoples
and on the recognition of the principles of international law to
which Colombia is bound; that Spanish is the official language of
Colombia, but the languages and dialects of ethnic groups are also
official within their territory and education in communities with
linguistic traditions shall be bilingual.
Title II of the Colombian Constitution contains an impressive
catalogue of human rights, which are enumerated in detail in the
corresponding section. They
appear in Chapter 1 (articles 11 to 41) under the heading of
fundamental rights; Chapter 2 (articles 42 to 77) contains the social,
economic and cultural rights; Chapter 3 (articles 78 to 82) contains
the collective rights and environmental rights; Chapter 4 (articles 83
to 94) refers to the rights to protection and enforcement of the
rights described earlier, while Chapter 5 (article 95) concerns duties
Particular mention should be made of the fact that under
Article 93, international human rights treaties ratified by Congress
are preeminent and may not be restricted in states of emergency.
It also provides that the rights and duties established in the
Constitution shall be interpreted in accordance with international
human rights treaties ratified by Colombia, adding that the rights
and guarantees contained in the Constitution and in international
conventions shall not be understood as a denial of other rights that,
being inherent in the human person, are not expressly
stipulated in either the Constitution or those conventions.
Title III concerns nationality, citizenship, aliens and
territory. Title IV
concerns the political rights and their exercise.
Its Chapter 1 regulates the methods of democratic participation
(voting, plebiscite, referendum, public consultation, open town
meetings, legislative initiatives and removing elected officials from
office); in Chapter 2 of this title, the Constitution regulates
political parties and political movements, while Chapter 3 concerns
the status of the opposition. The
Constitution repeals the bipartisan system of government instituted in
1958 with the so-called "National Front".
POLITICAL-LEGAL STRUCTURE OF THE STATE
Like the 1886 constitution it replaced, the 1991 Constitution
establishes three branches of government:
legislative, executive and judicial.
It also establishes independent autonomous organs with specific
functions. Colombia's constitutional history has been one in which the
executive branch of government has always been preeminent.
However, the present Constitution tries to balance the
relationship between the executive and legislative branches by
increasing the latter's powers. Accordingly,
the executive's authorities to legislate were curtailed and the
Congress was given greater political control over government.
The governance and functions of the legislative branch of
government are in article 114 and in articles 132 to 187.
The Legislative Branch of Government, addressed in Title
VI under the heading of Legislative Branch (articles 132 to 187), is
composed of senators and representatives elected directly by the
people to four-year terms of office that begin on July 20 following
their election. Their
basic function is to amend the Constitution, make laws and exercise
political control over the government and the administration.
Its members represent the people and must consider justice and
the common welfare. They
are answerable to both society and to their constituents in
discharging their duties. The Senate and the House of Representatives together
constitute the Congress, which has its seat in the capital of the
Republic. Congress has
two regular sessions each year when it is a single legislature.
The Senate is composed of 100 members elected nationwide, while
the House of Representatives, whose members are elected in territorial
and special elections, has two representatives per territorial
district and one for every 250,000 inhabitants or fraction over
One of the Colombian Congress' functions is to make the laws
and, through them, to exercise the following functions: interpret,
amend, and repeal laws; issue codes in all fields of law and amend
their provisions; establish the rules by which government must operate
when exercising the inspection and oversight functions stipulated in
the Constitution; invest, for up to six months, the President of
the Republic with specific, extraordinary authorities to issue norms
that have the force of law when necessity so requires or the
public interest so counsels. These
authorities are not to be conferred for purposes of issuing codes,
statutes, charters, etc.; approve or disapprove the treaties that
the Government concludes with other States or with entities of
international law. By
a majority of two thirds of the members of both houses and for grave
reasons of public interest, it may grant amnesties or general
pardons for political crimes.
Should the persons pardoned or given an amnesty be relieved of
any civil liability vis-a-vis private parties, the State shall be
obligated to pay any damages due, etc.
The Executive Branch is composed of the President of the
Republic, who is head of government and supreme administrative
authority, and of the ministers and directors of government
Article 188, the President must not only observe and enforce the
Constitution and the laws of the Republic but must also guarantee the
rights and freedoms of all citizens.
Articles 115 and 188-227 concern the structure of the executive
branch of government.
Within the Office of the President of the Republic, there is an
Office of the Presidential Adviser for the Defense, Protection and
Promotion of Human Rights, organized as follows:
This area acts upon the complaints of human rights violations
filed at the national level. The
work is performed jointly with the competent authorities, especially
with the Office of the Attorney General and the Judiciary.
For cases reported by international organizations, an
inter-institutional working group has been formed and must ascertain
the status of the investigations and compile any information needed.
Through the Municipal and Regional Area and the
municipal authorities that represent it, the job of defending,
protecting and promoting human rights is performed on a national
scale. There is also a Human
Rights Promotion and Dissemination Area.
The International Area involves functions established
under Article 2, paragraph 3 of Decree No. 2111, to address requests
that governmental and nongovernmental international entities make of
the Colombian Government in connection with the human rights situation
in the country and the obligations it has undertaken by virtue of
treaties and conventions signed and ratified by the State.
This function is performed jointly with the Ministry of Foreign
The Judicial Branch is covered under Title VIII, under
the heading Judicial Branch. Title VIII contains 7 chapters: 1, General Provisions; 2, The
Regular Courts; 3, Administrative Courts; 4, The Constitutional Court;
5, The Special Courts; 6, The Office of the Prosecutor General; 7, the
Superior Council of the Judiciary.
The judicial branch of government is governed under Article 116
and articles 228 to 257 of the Constitution.
Under Article 116, the administration of justice is the
responsibility of the Constitutional Court, the Supreme Court of
Justice, the Council of State, the Superior Council of the Judiciary,
the Office of the Prosecutor General of the Nation, the tribunals and
judges. That same article
also mentions military criminal justice.
Congress is to exercise certain judicial functions.
Under Title VIII, the administration of justice is a public
function; the decisions of the judiciary are independent and its
proceedings are to be public and ongoing, with the exceptions that the
The Supreme Court (Ordinary Jurisdiction) is the highest
of the ordinary courts. It
consists of 23 magistrates elected by the Court itself to an
eight-year term from slates submitted by the Superior Council of the
Judiciary. The members of
the Court sit on the full bench and on the Civil, Criminal and Labor
Appeals benches. While it
is an appellate court, it also investigats and tries the President,
ministers of state, the attorney general, the public defender, and in
general high-ranking officials and members of Congress for any
punishable offense of which they stand accused.
The Council of State (Administrative-Adjudicatory
Jurisdiction) is the Government's advisory body on matters of
administrative law and the supreme court for litigation in
administrative law. It
consists of 26 magistrates elected by the Council of State to an
eight-year term, from slates containing no fewer than three
candidates, which the Superior Council of the Judiciary shall refer to
it. The members of the
Council of State shall serve through the full chamber, the chamber for
administrative law and the advisory and civil service chamber.
The Administrative-Adjudicatory Chamber shall take
cognizance of actions seeking nullification, on grounds of
unconstitutionality, of any decree issued by the National Government
that does not fall within the jurisdiction of the Constitutional Court;
it shall also hear cases arguing the illegality of national
administrative acts issued in any branch of government and by private
bodies performing public functions; it shall hear cases to which
either the nation or a territory or decentralized entity is party and
cases wherein national bodies are seeking a ruling on government
authorities. The third
section of the Administrative-Adjudicatory Chamber deals with direct
reparations for government acts, omissions or operations, which would
include proceedings in which the State is being held responsible for
a human rights violation.
The Constitutional Court (Constitutional Jurisdiction)
also has an uneven number of members, as determined by law.
Its magistrates are to represent various areas of the law.
They are elected by the Senate to an eight-year term and are
not eligible for re-election. The functions of the Constitutional Court are as follows:
to decide cases brought by citizens arguing the
unconstitutionality of acts that amend the Constitution, whatever
their origin, on the grounds of procedural error; to decide, before
the people speak, whether a referendum or a constitutional assembly to
amend the Constitution is constitutional on purely procedural
grounds; to decide on the constitutionality of referenda on laws and
on the public consultations and national plebiscites (in these last
two cases, the actions can only assert procedural error in the
convocation and conduct of the public consultation and plebiscite); to
rule on cases filed by citizens claiming the unconstitutionality of
laws on the grounds of both material content and procedural error;
to settle suits brought by citizens arguing the unconstitutionality of
decrees issued by the government with the force of law based on
Article 150, paragraph 10, and Article 341 of the Constitution, on the
grounds that they are materially or procedurally flawed; to rule on
the exemptions covered in Article 137 of the Constitution; to hand
down a definitive ruling on the constitutionality of the legislative
decrees issued by the government pursuant to articles 212, 213 and 215
of the Constitution; to issue a final ruling on the
constitutionality of bills or draft statutes that the Government
has challenged as unconstitutional because of their material content
and procedural error; to review, in the manner prescribed by law,
court decisions on the protection of constitutional rights with a
view to determining the scope of those rights; to rule definitively
on whether the international treaties and the laws that approve
them are exigible. The
Government shall refer those treaties and the laws that approve them
to the Court within six days of the latter's enactment.
Any citizen may become a party to an action before this
Court to argue for or against the constitutionality of the treaties
and the laws approving them.
If the Court declares them to be constitutional, the Government
may proceed to the exchange of notes; otherwise, the treaties shall
not be ratified. When the
Constitutional Court declares one or several provisions of the
multilateral treaty to be non-exigible, the President of the Republic
may only indicate consent if the necessary reservation is stipulated.
The work being done by the new Constitutional Court, whose
magistrates were sworn in as recently as March 1992, deserves a
special word of recognition from the Inter-American Commission on
Human Rights for the work it is doing to defend, strengthen and
consolidate Colombia's constitutional system.
The Office of the Prosecutor General.
The Office of the Prosecutor General of the Nation consists of
the Prosecutor General, the attorneys delegates, and other officials
that the law prescribes. The
Prosecutor General of the Nation shall be elected to a four-year term
by the Supreme Court of Justice, from a slate submitted by the
President. He/she may not be reelected.
The Prosecutor General must have the same qualifications
required to be a magistrate on the Supreme Court.
The Office of the Prosecutor General is part of the judiciary
and is to have administrative and budgetary autonomy.
The Prosecutor General of the Nation and his/her delegates have
competence throughout the national territory.
It is the function of the Office of the Prosecutor
General--either ex officio or in response to a complaint filed--to
investigate crimes and to bring charges against the suspected guilty
parties with the competent courts and tribunals, except in the
case of service-related crimes committed by members of the armed
forces or National Police on active duty, in which case it shall:
1) ensure that those suspected of violating the criminal law
appear before the courts, adopting the measures necessary to that end.
Also, if need be it shall take steps to see to it that those
whose rights have been violated by the commission of the crime have
their rights restored and are properly compensated for any damages
caused; 2) evaluate and close the investigations conducted; 3) direct
and coordinate the criminal police functions performed, by law, by the
National Police and other agencies; 4) protect the victims, witnesses
and parties in a legal proceeding; 5) perform the other functions that
the law stipulates.
The Office of the Prosecutor General is by law required to
investigate that which is favorable and that which is unfavorable to
the accused, and to respect his fundamental rights and procedural
guarantees. It is the
duty of the Prosecutor General of the Nation:
to investigate and indict, where appropriate, high-ranking
officials who enjoy constitutional privilege, with the exceptions
stipulated in the Constitution; to appoint and remove, in keeping with
the law, the employees in his government department; to help shape the
State's policy toward crime and to submit bills in that regard; to
invest public entities with temporary authority to serve as criminal
investigations police, under the responsibility and functionally
answerable to the Office of the Prosecutor General of the Nation; and to
provide the government information on the investigations being carried
out, whenever necessary to preserve public order.
The Commission believes that the Office of the Prosecutor
General may represent a significant change in Colombian criminal
procedure. The existing
criminal procedure has two stages: the
investigatory stage where the evidence is compiled; and the trial
itself, where the criminal responsibility of the accused is
understand the function of the "fiscal" [prosecutor], one
must recall that under the previous system both phases were performed
by independent judges: an examining judge investigated the crimes denounced and if
he found sufficient cause requested that another judge, the trial
judge, bring the suspected guilty parties to trial.
Under the new criminal procedure, it is not the judge, but
rather the prosecutor who must investigate and indict suspected
criminals after which judges will determine whether or not they are
guilty. Under the
previous system, there was no single authority who took responsibility
for the criminal investigation as a whole, so that each examining
magistrate conducted his or her own investigation of the complaints
that came to his or her office. The
system did not necessarily have specialists in specific subjects or
someone to coordinate the many authorities involved in criminal
investigations (the DAS, F2, DIJIN, the Technical Corps of the
Criminal Investigations Police, etc.) that assisted them in their
functions. All these
difficulties were compounded by the complexity of the cases and by the
fact that the judges were not protected.
During its first year, the Office of the Prosecutor General
managed to handle 186,000 of the 325,000 cases it received when it
started to function, which made the system 50% more efficient than it
had been. Criminal
investigations rely on more technologically sophisticated methods,
prosecutors' performance is more closely scrutinized and the procedures have been streamlined. As for the protection of human rights, the report on the
first year of the Prosecutor's Office stresses that it handles
requests from governmental and nongovernmental, national and
international organizations concerning criminal investigations being
conducted into human rights violations anywhere in the national
territory and constantly monitors each investigation to make certain
that the relevant constitutional and legal principles are being
observed. It states that
thus far, it has or is investigating 1,724 cases involving human
rights violations of various types:
700 cases of disappearance, 782 cases of murder, 70 cases of
mass murder, 20 cases of torture, 69 cases of threats, 50 kidnapping
cases and 28 cases of arbitrary arrest, routed through various
government agencies, particularly the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and
the Office of the Presidential Advisor for Human Right, and 45 cases
reported by nongovernmental organizations such as Amnesty
International, Justice and Peace, the Andean Commission of Jurists,
and so on.
The Superior Council of the Judiciary.
Chapter 7 makes provision for a new body called the Superior
Council of the Judiciary. It
has two chambers: the
administrative, consisting of 6 magistrates (elected as follows: two by the Supreme Court, one by the Constitutional Court and
three by the Council of State), and the disciplinary jurisdictional
chamber, composed of 7 magistrates elected by Congress.
The functions of the Superior Council of the Judiciary are as
follows: to administer
the judiciary service; to prepare lists of candidates for appointment
as members of the judiciary and to send those lists to the body that
must make the appointment (the exception is the military criminal
courts, which are governed by their own rules); to examine the conduct
and punish misconduct by members of the judiciary and practicing
attorneys, as required by law; to monitor the performance of law firms
and offices; to prepare the proposed budget of the judiciary that is
to be submitted to the government and to execute it as it is approved
by Congress, and to settle any conflicts of competence that may arise
among the various jurisdictions.
Military Criminal Courts.
Article 221 of the Constitution of Colombia reads as follows:
Military courts martial or tribunals shall take cognizance, in
accordance with the provisions of the Military Penal Code, of
service-related crimes committed by members of the public forces while
in active service. The
military criminal jurisdiction in Colombia has been organized in
accordance with the provisions of the Military Penal and Criminal
Procedure Code, issued on December 12, 1988, through Decree Law No.
2550, which entered into force in June 1989.
Under the previous Code of Military Criminal Justice, issued
through Decree Law No. 250 of 1956, military courts were competent to
hear cases of common crimes committed by military while in active
service in times of war, armed conflict, disruption of the public
order or internal disturbance. Under
the new criminal code, however, the scope of military criminal justice
is as follows: the
provisions of this code shall apply to military in active service who
commit a military or service-related common punishable offense, within
or outside national territory, with those exceptions stipulated in
international law. It
shall also apply to officers, subordinates and agents of the National
Military Criminal Jurisdiction consists of the Military
Superior Tribunal, the lower courts, the chairmen of the courts
martial and military criminal pretrial staff.
The Military Superior Tribunal is composed of a General
Commander of the Armed Forces, who presides; there are another 15
magistrates, 10 prosecutors for all the chambers and the subordinate
staff required by law. The
Government may add additional staff when necessary.
The magistrates and prosecutors are appointed by the government
to five-year terms.
E. HUMAN RIGHTS UNDER THE
COLOMBIAN CONSTITUTIONAL SYSTEM
Colombia has a history of promoting and defending human rights.
One of the reasons is perhaps the repeated waves of violence
that it has had to contend with over the course of its history.
One of the forefathers of human rights in Colombia was
undoubtedly Antonio Nariño, who translated the 1789 French
declaration of the rights of man from French to Spanish.
Thanks to Nariño, Colombia was perhaps the first nation in the
Spanish-speaking new world where the specific subject of human rights
was discussed. Moreover,
the Colombian constitutions that predated the 1886 and 1991
constitutions recognized human rights in Colombia.
Human dignity and human rights are at the heart of the new
Constitution inasmuch as they are the raison d'etre and fundamental
purpose of the Colombian State, as its preamble and articles 1 and 2
state. What follows is a
list of some of the rights recognized in the new Colombian
45; acquired rights, 58; a balanced diet, 43, 44, 46; a healthy
environment, 79; love, 44; the elderly, 46; appeal, 31, 158; immediate
enforcement, 85; asylum, 36; association, 38; political association
107; union association, 39; health care and environmental sanitation,
49; free health care, 50; honor, 15; movement and residence, 24, 31;
personal rights, 15; challenge evidence, 29; care, 44; culture, 70;
due process, 29; self defense, 29; the rights of the physically
handicapped, 47; education, 44, 67; territorial entities, 287, 360;
aliens, 100, family, 42, 44; fundamental rights, 11, 12, 13, 14, 15,
1, 17, 18, 19, 20, 21, 22, 23, 24, 25, 26, 27, 28, 29, 30, 31, 32, 33,
34, 45, 36, 37, 38, 39, 40, 41, 152, 250; habeas data, 15, habeas
corpus, 30, 282; emoluments, 50, honor, 21; strike, exercise and
prohibitions, 56; human rights, 20, 67, 93, 94, 95, 118, 214, 222,
277, 282, 377; equality, 13; challenge a court ruling, 29; inalienable
rights of the individual, 4; the inherent rights of the human person,
94; physical integrity, 12, 44; international humanitarian law, 214;
international law, 9, 101, 214, 235; family privacy, 15; personal
privacy, 15; inviolability of communications, 15; inviolability of
domicile, 28; right to a fair trial, 229; freedom of communication,
20; freedom of conscience, 18; freedom of worship, 19; freedom of
business, 333; freedom to choose one's profession or trade, 26;
freedom of information 20; freedom of opinion, 20; freedom of
migration, 24; personal liberty, 17, 28; freedom of association, 38;
free competition, 333; freedom of expression, 20, 44; freedom to
develop one's personality, 16; women's rights, 43; nationality, 44,
96; collective bargaining, 55; children, 44; not to be punished by
having one's property confiscated, 34; not to be punished with life
imprisonment, 34; not to be punished with exile, 34; not to be tried
twice for the same crime, 29; not to be tortured, 12; not to be forced
to testify against one's self, 33; not to be a victim of mistreatment,
17; not to be a victim of enforced disappearance, 12; not to be
subjected to servitude, 17; not to suffer discrimination, 13; not to
be enslaved, 17; the right to a name, 44; competitive examination for
employment, 265; heads of household, 68; timely payment, 53; political
participation, 40, 265; individual rights, 58; political parties, 107;
peace, 20, 22, 67, 95; petition, 23, 219; politicians, 100, 175; to
present evidence, 29; to present respectful petitions to the
authorities, 23; confidentiality, 355; private property, 58;
intellectual property, 61; collective property, 329, communal or
public properties, 95; protection, 45; recognized in the Constitution,
95; recognition of legal status, 14; recreation, sports and free time,
44, 52; rectification, 20; the right to correct personal data, 15; the
right of reply, 112; the right to meet and to demonstrate, 37, 219;
health, 44, 49, 50, 54, 64, 78, 95, 300, 336, 356, 366; the right to
professional privacy, 74; social security, 44, 46, 48, 50, 53, 57, 64;
the right to join a trade union, 39; the social rights of workers,
215; the social, economic and cultural rights, 42, 43, 44, 45, 46, 47,
48, 49, 50, 51, 52, 53, 54, 55, 56, 57, 58, 59, 60, 61, 62, 63, 64,
65, 66, 67, 68, 69, 70, 71, 72, 73, 74, 75, 76. 77; the right to vote
and participate in elections, 99; the right to trial, 228; the rights
of the elderly, 46; workers, 53, 77, 215, 336; the right to work, 25;
protection, 86; life, 11, 44; decent housing, 51, 64; vote, 100, 103,
The Constitution and laws contain mechanisms to protect these
rights, such as the remedy to seek protection of one's basic rights (tutela),
popular actions and the constitutionality challenge, which are
discussed elsewhere in this report.
Every Colombian citizen is also protected by an international
system to defend and protect human rights, which they may resort to
directly if their claims are ignored or when all domestic legal
remedies have been exhausted.
STATES OF EMERGENCY UNDER THE EXISTING LEGAL SYSTEM
Articles 212 and 213 of the Constitution provide for two types
of states of emergency: the
first is in the event of foreign war, while the second is in the event
of a serious disruption of the domestic public order that poses an
imminent threat to democratic stability, the security of the State and
peace among its citizens and that cannot be corrected exercising the
ordinary authorities with which the police are invested.
A state of emergency can only be declared in extraordinarily
grave situations and never for minor disturbances.
All this is compatible with international human rights law,
which emphasizes that there must be very serious reasons for declaring
a state of emergency. The
American Convention on Human Rights provides that guarantees may only
be suspended in times of war, public danger, or some other emergency
that threatens the independence or security of the State Party...
(Article 27). The
provisions of the American Convention have been repeatedly interpreted
by the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights to mean that a state
of emergency can only be declared in an exceptional situation that
truly represents a threat to the organized life of the State; the
exceptional situation must be such that it cannot be dealt with by the
ordinary means the State routinely uses.
States of emergency declared because of war can last
indefinitely. A state of
emergency declared because of a grave internal disturbance can last
ninety days and can be extended twice.
The second extension, however, requires advanced approval by the
legislative decrees enacted during a state of internal disturbance can
remain in effect for up to another ninety days after matters have
returned to normal. This
means that in the event of a grave internal disturbance, the measures
adopted pursuant to the state of emergency can last as many as 360 days
under the new Constitution. When
one considers that under the previous Constitution, a state of emergency
could last indefinitely, which actually happened, the fact that the new
Constitution sets a time limit is a significant constitutional and legal
Unlike the previous Constitution, which allowed certain
constitutional guarantees to be suspended during a state of emergency,
subparagraphs 2 to 6 of Article 214 of the new Constitution provide the
Human rights may not be suspended, nor may the basic
freedoms. The rules of
international humanitarian law shall be respected at all times.
A statute shall regulate the authorities of the Government during
states of emergency and shall stipulate the judicial controls and
guarantees available to protect rights, pursuant to international
treaties. The measures
adopted must be proportional to the severity of the events.
(This statutory law is now being negotiated in Congress).
The three branches of government and the organs of the State
shall not be impaired by a state of emergency.
As soon as the foreign war has ended or the reasons that prompted
the state of emergency because of internal disturbance no longer obtain,
the government shall declare public order restored and shall lift the
state of emergency. The
President and the ministers shall be held accountable when they declare
a state of emergency without there being any foreign war or internal
disturbance; they, as well as the other government officials, shall be
responsible for any abuses they may have committed in exercising the
authorities conferred upon them in the preceding articles.
The Government shall refer to the Constitutional Court, the day
following their issuance, the legislative decrees it issues in exercise
of the powers referred to in the preceding articles, so that the Court
may deliver the definitive ruling as to their constitutionality.
If the Government fails to send said legislative acts to the
Constitutional Court, the latter shall take cognizance of them ex
officio and immediately.
Article 214 also provides the following: "...the President
of the Republic and the ministers shall be held accountable if they
declare a state of emergency when none of the circumstances provided for
in the first paragraph obtains; they shall also be responsible for any
abuse committed in exercising the authorities that the Constitution
gives the government during states of emergency."
Even though the 1991 Constitution introduced important changes in
the state-of-emergency system, the Commission is disturbed by the two
internal disturbance declared by the Chief Executive in 1992, because it
questions whether there was cause and because certain fundamental rights
Through Decree 1155/92 of July 9, 1992, the Government of Cesar
Gaviria declared a state of internal disturbance in Colombia to avoid
releasing more than 1200 people accused of drug trafficking and
terrorism. Although this
danger could not be settled by any of the ordinary authorities with
which government authorities are vested, on the other hand it does not
seem that to allow the accused to exercise their lawful right should
pose "an imminent threat to democratic stability, the security of
the State or peace among its citizens."
On the basis of this provision of Decree 1156, the exercise of
the right of habeas corpus was restricted.
In effect, Article 3 of Decree 1156 of 1992 expressly stipulates
that suspects charged with drug trafficking and terrorism shall not be
permitted to file petitions of habeas corpus when they believe
they satisfy the legal requirements for provisional release; it orders
that arguments for provisional release are to be made during the
respective proceedings. It
also stipulates that the petition of habeas corpus may not be
used to vacate an order of incarceration issued by the judge hearing the
Article 30 of the Constitution stipulates that the guarantee of habeas
corpus may be invoked at any time, before any judge and by any
person who considers that he or she has been unlawfully deprived of his
or her freedom. Therefore,
the chief executive cannot limit the use of habeas corpus to
certain stages in the proceedings or prevent someone accused of certain
crimes from using habeas corpus to challenge a decision by the
judge hearing the case ordering the accused's incarceration.
The Inter-American Court of Human Rights has established specific
jurisprudence on this issue in Advisory Opinion No. 8/87, where it
stated that habeas corpus cannot be limited or suspended at any
time because "the right to life and to humane treatment are
threatened whenever the right to habeas corpus is partially or
wholly suspended." The
United Nations Working Group on Enforced Disappearance took the same
position. The Commission
itself, in its report on Colombia in 1989-90, pointed to the need to
take swift legal and institutional measures to restore habeas corpus
to its proper place. These
international pronouncements were disregarded when the Colombian
Government gave those accused of drug trafficking and terrorism fewer
opportunities to exercise the right to file a petition of habeas
Colombia's Constitutional Court, which ruled that the restriction was
not unconstitutional, the Commission believes it is patently at odds
with Article 214 of the Constitution, which provides that the government
shall not suspend fundamental rights and freedoms in states of
Through Decree 1793, of November 1992, the Government of
President Gaviria again declared a state of emergency by reason of
internal disturbance, wherein an all-out war on the guerrilla movement
was declared. Based on this
declaration, the following emergency measures were ordered: criminal
investigations were assigned to the military forces (Decree 1810);
popularly elected mayors and governors who did not adhere to the central
government's policy vis-a-vis the guerrilla movement were subject to
sanctions (Decree 1811); certain public information could not be
disseminated to the media (decree 1812); an office was created to
protect victims and witnesses in trials being heard by regional judges
The Commission was particularly disturbed by the fact that
members of the military were to be allowed to perform functions
ordinarily performed by the criminal investigations police in
investigations conducted by prosecutors into cases involving civilians.
When prosecutors use military personnel as criminal
investigators, citizens' rights can be violated, evidence can be faked
or even concealed when it is incriminating to the armed forces, which is
frequently accused of alleged human rights violations.
And so the Commission was gratified to see that this measure was
never put into effect since the Constitutional Court declared it
unconstitutional in the compulsory review it must make of all decrees
issued in exercise of emergency powers.
The Commission believes that in many respects, this report has
already served an important purpose.
Its objections to certain laws and decrees in the Colombian
system were taken into account and helped bring about meaningful
changes, as in this case. The
criticism of the decree was heeded and State agencies did not enforce
it. Cited below are a
number of paragraphs from the Constitutional Court's ruling No. C-034,
February 8, 1993, explaining the reasoning behind the Court's finding
that 1992 Decree 1810 was unconstitutional:
Given their constitutional objectives (defending the sovereignty,
independence and integrity of the territory and the constitutional
order), the military forces do not have
competence to serve as criminal investigating police.
In truth, giving the military forces the functions of criminal
investigating police would pervert their nature.
To give the military forces dual functions (a military function
and an investigative police function) and to introduce the corresponding
dual hierarchy of authority (the highest ranking military officer and
the Prosecutor General of the Nation) would break the backbone of the
military's structure, destroy the single command chain and in some sense
guarantee that in the event of a conflict between the two functions (a
possibility that cannot be discounted given the climate of armed
conflict in several parts of the national territory and that has forced
the military to strengthen its presence and increase its operatives) the
function of criminal investigating police would take precedence.
From a constitutional standpoint, to include military personnel
in criminal investigation police units was tantamount to
administration interference in the judiciary.
The Commission hopes that in Colombia, states of emergency will
become the exception rather than the rule and that when a declaration of
a state of emergency really is necessary, the guarantees set forth in
the American Convention and the Colombian Constitution will be
G. EMERGENCY DECREES
BECOME PERMANENT LAW
To illustrate how the emergency decrees have been incorporated
into and are now part of Colombia's permanent body of law, the following
is a summarized table of what were originally called the Statutes for
the "Defense of Democracy" and for "Defense of
Justice", specifying the acts they criminalize and punish and the
procedures that they establish. Also
highlighted are the norms that were subsequently enacted in order to
supplement these statutes or modify them, including the provisions of
the Code of Criminal Procedure and Law No. 81 of November 2, 1993, which
amended that code.
FOR THE DEFENSE OF DEMOCRACY. Decrees
180-88 and related decrees
Crimes heard by Public Order Courts (today known as Regional
2. Aiding and
abetting terrorism or terrorist activities.
3. Failing to report
terrorist activities. 4.
Demanding or soliciting funds for terrorism. 5. Recruiting,
forcibly or otherwise, for terrorist groups.
6. Forming or
joining armed groups (members). 7.
Conspiracy to commit crime. 8. Arson, destruction or vandalization of boats, aircraft or any
other means of transportation by a terrorist act. 9. Firing upon
or using explosive devices to destroy vehicles.
manufacture, trafficking and use of arms or toxic substances. 11. Using or
throwing dangerous substances or objects.
12. Manufacture or
trafficking in arms and munitions used exclusively by the Military
Forces or the National Police. 13. Instructing, training and outfitting armed groups.
14. Unlawfully using transmitters or receivers.
resources gotten by means of terrorism.
official correspondence. 17.
Unlawful use of uniforms and insignia.
Inciting others to commit military crimes to aid terrorist
Kidnapping (S.P. Cualificado) [Translator's note:
the expression "S.P. Cualificado" literally means
"qualified passive subject," i.e. that the passive subject of
the crime has some position or rank that distinguishes him/her from
ordinary passive subjects] when the victims are public order judges, procedure, Decrees
181/88 or 474/88. 21.
Torture in terrorist activities (S.P. Cualificado)*.
22. Extortion for
purposes of terrorism. 23.
Personal or family threats for terrorist ends.
24. Terrorist attacks against industrial complexes and other
institutions. 25. Hijacking
of aircraft, boats or other means of mass transportation.
26. Homicide for
terrorist ends (S.P. Cualificado)*.
27. Personal injury
inflicted for terrorist ends (S.P. Cualificado)*.
28. Injury caused by
unlawful armed groups. 29.
Adulteration of foods and medicines.
In addition to the acts criminalized in Decree 180 of 1988,
others contained in decrees that either pre- or post-dated the state of
siege also became permanent law, such as:
possession of personal defense weapons, munitions or explosives
without a permit and bearing arms that are to be used solely by the
Armed Forces (Decree 3664 of 1986); increased penalties for the crime of
insurrection and for the crime of rioting, unlawful assembly and
violence (Decree 1857 of 1989); impairing the free exercise of the right
to vote by using weapons at political or electoral events (Decree 1859
of 1989); Unlawful enrichment (Decree 1895 of 1989).
In this case, the burden of proof was on the accused.
Those who either commit or participate in the commission of these
crimes shall be exempt from punishment when they provide effective
cooperation in ascertaining the facts; there are also monetary rewards
for vital information.
specialized Public Order teams and members of the military forces,
national police and the Administrative Security Department that are not
part of the Criminal Investigations Police.
In addition to the functions and authorities given to the
Technical Corps of the Criminal Investigations Police under the Code of
Criminal Procedure, the Statute gives those same authorities the
following functions and powers: a.
To assist public order judges in the manner and to the degree
that the latter indicate. b.
To contribute urgently needed or force majeure elements,
confining their functions to the following:
1) their authorities
in cases where the individual in question is caught in flagrante
(arrest, etc.). 2)
Searches of private residences, with the permission of the
resident, but under no circumstances on their own initiative.
3) Searches of
public places to confirm the illegal possession of firearms, explosives,
munitions or other materials enumerated in the emergency provisions.
communications sent or received.
1.3 Period of
questioning: -5 days from
the date of capture; -The respective judge must be informed of the
capture within 36 hours; -The individuals taken into custody and the
case files must be turned over within the next 5 days, plus any
additional period allowed because of distance; the judge may extend this
period for another 10 days. 1.3.1.
Holding prisoners in custody and incommunicado (Decree 1859/89):
The criminal investigating police have 7 working days in which to
turn over the case files and the prisoners when the latter were caught in
1.4. Deciding the
individual's legal status: 1.4.1.
Time periods in which to decide the individual's legal status:
18 months as of the start of the pretrial hearing and 30 months
when there are 3 or more defendants or crimes; 1.4.2.
Safety measures: only
preventive detention. The
pretrial hearing can be conducted so long as criminal action is not
2. Pretrial hearing and
authorities: A specialized
public order judge of first instance, and the public order tribunal in
2.2. The time frame
for the pretrial hearing: 30 days following the complaint or the report.
if the defendant's unsworn statement cannot be taken within ten
days of the start of the pretrial hearing, a deadline (2 days) shall be
given and a public defender appointed.
Both the Prosecution and the Defense have 8 days each to present
their arguments and allegations. -Ruling: once
the case is returned to the judge's chambers, the judge has 10 days in
which to hand down his/her ruling.
Note: the articles
that denied the defendant's right to file a challenge during the
pretrial period were declared unconstitutional by the Constitutional
The rulings on merits issued during the proceedings can be
challenged using the ordinary remedies and within the appropriate
jurisdiction; a higher court ruling can be challenged by means of the
extraordinary remedies of cassation and review.
articles 310 and 313 of the Code of Criminal Procedure, the authorities
empowered to submit evidence and conduct investigations as criminal
investigating police are as follows:
the Criminal Investigating Police of the National Police, the
Technical Investigations Corps of the Office of the Prosecutor General
of the Nation, the public officials attached to the prosecutorial
offices and the Administrative Security Department (DAS).
These officials will be answerable to the prosecutor (heretofore
a judge) assigned the case and may go so far as to compile and submit
technical evidence or evidence resulting from the commission of the
crime, activities that violate the right to privacy or implicate
suspects on the basis of an unsworn statement or a deposition by an
absent party. Decree 1810
of 1992, which concerned internal disturbances, created units within the
military forces but coordinated by the Prosecutor General of the Nation,
to perform the functions of criminal investigating police, with the
authority to compile and introduce evidence and present testimony
specified by the Code of Criminal Procedure (Articles 1 to 5 of Decree
1810). However, this decree
has not yet become permanent law, although its articles were introduced
into Bill 040, which the Government presented to Congress and which the
latter now has under study. That
bill concerns the emergency provisions that could become permanent law.
Concerning Decree 1810 of 1992, the Constitutional Court ruled
that it was unconstitutional for military personnel to submit evidence
nevertheless left the criminal investigating units intact within the
1. The identity of
witnesses is to be kept confidential if they so request; the witness
shall identify himself or herself to the judge and an official from the
Public Prosecutor's Office. 2.
Arrest and custody of civil servants.
of the proceedings; copy of
the proceedings may not be made public.
FOR THE DEFENSE OF JUSTICE. Decree
1. Crimes referred to the
ordinary courts. Decree
2790 of 1990 returned a significant number of punishable offenses to the
jurisdiction of the regular courts (articles 10 and 11), thereby
relieving some of the congestion in the Public Order Courts, which it
also endowed with administrative and efficient support.
These offenses are: 1)
Crimes against the existence and security of the State, described
under Title I of Book II of the Penal Code;
2) Carrying firearms
used for one's personal defense or their ammunition;
kidnapping; 4) Personal and
family threats; 5) Carrying, cultivating and trafficking narcotic drugs in
amounts of up to 2,000 units, plants; 10,000 marijuana; 10,000 grams of
hashish; 2,000 grams of coca or coca base, and 4,000 grams of
methacualone; 6) Destruction of real property for consumption and
trafficking of narcotic drugs, except for laboratories, in the same
amounts; 7) The punishable
offense criminalized under Article 6 of Decree 1856, when the amount
involved is less than 1,000 minimum wages; 8) Proceedings related to property seized on the occasion of
previous violations. Note:
The other crimes heard by the Public Order Court will be
processed in accordance with the provisions of this Statute.
2. Change of venue:
The Ministry of Justice may change the venue of the proceedings
when the personal safety of the judge is endangered or when
circumstances are present that could compromise:
public order; impartiality or independence in the administration
of justice; procedural guarantees; the public nature of the proceedings;
and the safety of the individual on trial.
3. Public Order Criminal
Investigation Police. 3.1.
The permanent investigative units consist of personnel from the
following: the Technical Code of the Criminal Investigating Police, the
Administrative Security Department (DAS), the National Police (DIJIN and
the Public Order Investigative Units that include military
personnel must have the authorization of a criminal judge in order to:
1) conduct searches; 2) tap telephone lines; 3) make arrests,
except in the case of an individual caught in flagrante delicto. Note: When the
legal circumstances warrant it, searches may be conducted without a
court order; however, the unit chief must take all criminal and
authorities: Public Order
Investigative Units. 1.2.
Notification: Early the following day the Public Order Section Director
will be notified so that he may assign the examining judge. The judge may replace the Public Order Unit with another or
order that a joint investigation be conducted.
The official from the Public Prosecutor's Office will also be
notified of the starting date of the preliminary inquiry. 1.3. Arrest.
The arrest will be recorded in a file each page of which will be
signed by an official with the Public Prosecutor's Office.
Immediate notification: 1)
the party specified by the person in custody;
2) the official with
the Public Prosecutor's Office; 3)
the examining judge. Note:
The individuals in custody and the original copy of the case file
are to be remanded to the examining judge within five days of arrest.
During this period the individual can be held incommunicado.
authority: Public Order
Examining Judge, assisted by the Investigation Units.
2.2. Time frame for
taking the unsworn statement: in the case of one individual in custody:
within three days of being brought before the court.
Two to five individuals in custody:
5 days. More than
five individuals in custody: 10
Establishing the individual's legal status. Time frame:
when there are one or two individuals under arrest:
10 days following the unsworn statement.
Five or more individuals: 20
days. The Section Director
may designate several judges to take the unsworn statements and
determine the individual's legal position. - A declaration by an absent
individual and appointment of a public defender, after posting a
notification of case pending at the scene of the events.
2.4. Review of proceedings: the
following shall have access to the case file:
1) the individual implicated by the proceedings;
2) the attorney for the defense;
3) the court assistants; 4)
the Public Prosecutor's Office; 5)
the National Director of Criminal Investigations or his/her
the National Deputy Director for the Public Order Jurisdiction,
the Public Order Section Director.
Restriction: In the case of the defense attorney, the court assistant and
the accused, the decisions and evidence can be held on reserve until the
investigation has been officially closed should the security and
efficacy of the investigation so warrant.
of the pretrial hearing: copies
of the proceedings may not be circulated.
The investigative units may submit whatever evidence they deem
pertinent and the evidence requested by the judge appointed to the case,
by the official from the Public Prosecutor's Office and by the attorney
for the defense. Evidence
requested by the defense attorney can be denied by a hearing and that
decision cannot be appealed except by a one-time request filed with the
Public Prosecutor's Office. 2.7.
Decree closing the investigation:
This is a case hearing decision that cannot be appealed.
Time frame for entering pleas, five days.
Time frame for a ruling on the pretrial hearing: 10 days by the
end of which either an indictment or an order to dismiss the case or
reopen the investigation must be handed down.
authority: Public Order
trial judge. 3.2.
Evidentiary period: 30
days to request evidence; 60 days to submit evidence.
Evidence can be submitted directly by the judge or through the
investigations unit. The
evidence produced by the Criminal Investigation Police Unit can be
Time frame for a judgment: 8
days for entering pleas, 15 days for handing down a judgment.
1. The identity of
judges is kept confidential by changing their case assignments and
having the arguments submitted in writing.
2. Notification of
interlocutory decrees is through the Public Order Section Chiefs.
3. Special procedure
for the disposition of case-related properties.
detention, as the one permissible means of guaranteeing that the suspect
remains in custody. 5.
Apprehension and incarceration of public officials.
6. Hospital or house
Determining the appropriate authority to process and decide
petitions of habeas corpus filed with the Magistrates of the
Public Order Court.
8. Reducing sentence
in exchange for effective cooperation during the investigation or
immediate and unconditional provisional release.
compensation to informants, whereby the money is paid either within or
outside the country.
With the establishment of a public order jurisdiction, now called
the regional jurisdiction, decrees and procedures have been established
that infringe upon fundamental rights upheld in Colombia's Constitution,
such as the right of defense (the secret witness has become standard
practice; secret judges; secret prosecutors and officials, a
proliferation of evidence that is kept secret and therefore impossible
to refute; investigations into individuals who are only implicated when
the examining phase is already at an advanced stage and hence do not
have the procedural opportunity to defend themselves); the right to due
process (military units introducing evidence, pressure exerted on
suspects to get them to confess or to get them to make statements,
confessions or accusations that are used in order to have them held in
custody without properly weighing the evidence); the right to personal
liberty (long periods of incarceration without the accused's situation
being resolved; incarceration for crimes not committed; criminalizing
noncriminal behaviors or behaviors that constitute some other type of
punishable offense) and the right to be presumed innocent (orders of
incarceration and arrest warrants issued on the basis of a single piece
of secret evidence).
H. COLOMBIA AND THE INTERNATIONAL SYSTEM OF HUMAN
As the 1989 Report of the Office of the Presidential Advisor for
the Defense, Protection and Promotion of Human Rights quite rightly
points out, the Colombian State has signed and ratified most of the
international covenants, protocols and conventions related to human
articles 93 and 214, paragraph 2, provide that international human
rights and humanitarian law treaties are preeminent in the domestic
legal system. This means that Colombia has certain substantive and
jurisdictional obligations. From
the jurisdictional standpoint, with ratification of these instruments,
Colombia undertakes to accept the jurisdiction of the international
bodies established to defend human rights in cases where the human
rights of persons either living in or passing through the country have
been violated, since the mission of international jurisdictional bodies
is to ensure compliance with the covenants, conventions and protocols
signed by the member countries; to try to restore a right that has been
violated and to persuade the country to punish those responsible and
order the damages due as a result of the violation.
International organizations issue censures, generally moral in
nature, when a country fails to honor the obligations it has undertaken.
It may, for example, have failed to prosecute the investigations
via the mechanisms provided under domestic law; or if those mechanisms
have been exhausted, it may have failed to give any genuine satisfaction
by restoring the violated right. The
binding nature of these obligations is not construed as a violation of a
nation's sovereignty or a breach of its political and jurisdictional
What follows is a list of the international human rights
covenants, conventions and protocols by which Colombia is bound:
It is legally incorrect to argue that the state of internal
disturbance can be extended so that it remains in effect for as long
as 360 days: it can
remain in effect for up to 270 days; the other 90 days are how long
the measures adopted can remain in effect, which is a different
matter. If the 90 days following the first 270 days were part of the
state of emergency, the government could adopt new measures, which
is not the case. Notes
and comments on the Commission's Report that are not part of the
Colombian Government's official reply; they arrived at the
Commission on September 22, 1993.
As for the objection made by the Inter-American Commission on
Human Rights to Decree 1810, which gave the Army
criminal-investigation functions and which, as said before, was
nullified, the Government of Colombia stated that the decree had
been a temporary and strictly emergency measure and that with the
Constitutional Court's ruling the guarantees of due process were
The acts criminalized in Decree 180/88 and in those that pre-
and post-dated it: Decree
3564 of 1986, 474/88, 2490/88, 1194/89, 813/89, 814/89, 1857/89,
1858/89, 1895/89, all of which were State of Siege Decrees, became
permanent law by virtue of Decrees 2253/91, 2265/91 and 2266/91.
The decrees that have recognized these benefits are:
Decree 2047/90, Decree 2872/90, Decree 3030/90, Decree 303/91
(all of which became permanent law under Decree 2265 of 1991),
Decree 1933/92 (article 1), Decree 264/93 (which the Constitutional
Court nullified in its ruling of May 3, 1993), and Decree 1495/93.
The rules governing rewards for cooperation are now
stipulated in the Code of Criminal Procedure, in articles 37, 37A,
37B and 369B (Decree 2700/61 and Law 81 of November 2, 1993).
The public order judges are now called prosecutors during the
investigation and pretrial hearing, and regional judges in the trial
phase. The Public Order
Tribunal is now the National Tribunal, and the Regional Jurisdiction
has now absorbed what was once the Public Order Jurisdiction.