The reasons why the Constitutional Court of Colombia overturned the life sentence for child rapists

The reasons why the Constitutional Court of Colombia overturned the life sentence for child rapists
The reasons why the Constitutional Court of Colombia overturned the life sentence for child rapists

Demonstration in the Plaza de Bolívar of the International Day for the Prevention of Child Sexual Abuse and the Universal Day of the Child (Camila Díaz – Colprensa)

On July 6 of this year, the Gilma Jiménez Law, which approved life imprisonment for rapists and murderers of children and adolescents in Colombia. However, this did not last two months, after this Thursday, September 2 the Constitutional Court overturned the ruling, that in addition to generating a media scandal in the country, it was one of the proposals sold by the today President of the Colombian State, Iván Duque Márquez in 2018, when the headship of the nation was disputed.

According to the high court, with a presentation by the magistrate Cristina Pardo Schlesinger, the Colombian Congress exceeded the legislative power it possesses by approving the revision of article 34 of the 1991 Constitution, ensuring that the endorsement of that request threatens human life, the Social and democratic state of law and several other of the pillars that govern the Colombian Magna Carta.

Words more, words less, the Constitutional Court, with a vote of 6 to 3, declared “unconstitutional” the aforementioned law that was intended to regulate revisable life imprisonment and reform the Penal, Penal Procedure and Penitentiary and Prison codes.

FAILURE

The decision approved by Congress allowed that when an individual had spent 25 years behind bars, their sentence could be reviewed to analyze their resocialization status. However, the jurists who historically ruled against the law supported by the national government, assured that “This review mechanism does not meet the standards to consider it a penalty that respects human dignity. The indeterminacy of the review, which is subject to a time and future and uncertain events, replaces the Political Charter and has as a consequence, the violation of several constitutional principles in criminal matters ”.

Constitutional Court (Colprensa - Camila Díaz)
Constitutional Court (Colprensa – Camila Díaz)

The names of the magistrates who brought down life sentences in the country were Cristina Pardo, José Fernando Reyes, Alberto Rojas, Alejandro Linares, Diana Fajardo and Jorge Enrique Ibáñez. While the three opposing magistrates were Antonio José Lizarazo, Gloria Ortiz and Paola Meneses.

Apart from Plazas, the main speaker, another staunch defender of repealing the controversial proposal was Judge Jorge Enrique Ibáñez Najar, who clarified the reasons why he supported the decision of the Chamber.

“No one may be subjected to torture or to cruel penalties or inhuman or degrading treatment (which includes their resocialization) and with the prohibition of establishing the sentence of life imprisonment provided for in the original article 34 of the Constitution,” he asserted.

After several of the arguments, both Ibáñez and the other robes strictly defended human dignity and distorted the presentation that, they say, would violate not only the laws in the country, it also exceeds the limits imposed by International Human Rights Law.

WHAT WAS THE ‘TRECHO’ THAT THE REFORM WAS IN COLOMBIAN POWERS

The ‘stony’ path through which life imprisonment for rapists passed is not new and was promoted since the current president of Colombians dreamed of being president and that, experts say, helped him win the Presidency after much of its more than 10 million voters in the second round they will support him for that proposal that today is classified as “populist” and “punitive”.

In June 2020, the Senate of the Republic, for example, with 77 votes in favor, he supported the reform of article 34 of the Political Constitution and there it was seen a “battle won” for President Duque and his cabinet.

However, following the high court ruling this week, it seems that the claims of the executive power fell.

“It is not only that we will have life imprisonment, but these behaviors will be imprescriptible so that there is no miserable criminal who claims that with the passage of time his responsibility is extinguished before society”, said the Colombian head of state in July 2020 when he promulgated the initiative that was recently eliminated.

Duque enacts reform that allows life imprisonment for child rapists / EFE
Duque enacts reform that allows life imprisonment for child rapists / EFE

At that time, Iván Duque wanted that measure to be “Exemplary” and give the “results” that had been proposed, which were to give the Colombian judges power to convict until the date of his death to those who carnally agreed and murdered minors in the country. Penalty that, as already mentioned, could be assessed after 25 years of sentence.

Since this enactment, his government had one year to present the regulations to Congress and thus debate how said reform would be implemented in the country’s judicial systems; with which the president was excited at that time and recognized that he would give “An accelerated process to the law that regulates this legislative act and that is also complemented with other normative developments that are fundamental for the country and are advancing in Congress.” However, it did not turn out as expected.

The demands of Álvaro Uribe Vélez, along with his sons Tomás and Jerónimo, encompass the sentiment of the Democratic Center and constitute harsh criticism of the Iván Duque government's proposal. Photo: Colprensa
The demands of Álvaro Uribe Vélez, along with his sons Tomás and Jerónimo, encompass the sentiment of the Democratic Center and constitute harsh criticism of the Iván Duque government’s proposal. Photo: Colprensa

It should be remembered that in mid-July 2018, when Duque had already won the elections and was the elected president of the Colombians, he assured that He would not leave the government without leaving the rule in force; so it was one of the purposes of his government that today will no longer see the light, but that members of his party such as senator Ernesto Macías will seek to revive through a referendum.

The year Duque arrived at the Casa de Nariño, he defended this proposal over and over again, ensuring that “It is not punitive populism.” This was stated by the president from the governors’ summit that was held in Paipa in July 2018 and in which he sought to honor the memory of the late congresswoman Gilma Jiménez, who in life fought, unsuccessfully, for the approval of life imprisonment for said criminals.

Bogotá July 1, 2013. Senator Gilma Jiménez was fired at her funeral with applause. Colprensa / Germán Enciso.
Bogotá July 1, 2013. Senator Gilma Jiménez was fired at her funeral with applause. Colprensa / Germán Enciso.

AND NOW, WHAT THE GOVERNMENT SAID

Well, the staunch defenses of the then candidate, who now has less than a year left to finish his term in Colombia, they vanished after the ruling of the high court.

However, once the ruling of the Constitutional Court was known on Thursday of this week, President Iván Duque and the directives of the Democratic Center, the party with which he won power, they referred assuring that they abided by the ruling, but they distorted it with vehement arguments and impetuously.

What’s more, the current Minister of Justice, Wilson Ruiz, who was the author and promoter of this project from the portfolio he directs, regretted the decision although he also said he recognized it.

The debate is barely opening and, in the face of the penalties that those who commit this type of crimes in coffee lands will have to face, new ideas are expected for the election year and less than 10 months after the next president of almost 50 million Colombians is elected.

KEEP READING:

Petro a Duque after a life sentence: “The State cannot match the garavitos”

What is the penalty for murderers and rapists of children in Colombia after the fall of life imprisonment

 
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