Colombian military should not try key human rights case

A key human rights case in Colombia could be handed over to the country’s military justice system, should a civilian judge rule in favour of the request.

Retired army colonel Luis Alfonso Plazas Vega is currently on trial in the civilian courts for his alleged part in the enforced disappearance of 11 people in 1985.

Luis Alfonso Plazas was arrested in July 2007 in relation to the disappearances, which took place during the military assault on the Palace of Justice in Bogotá.

The assault took place after M-19 guerrillas took those inside hostage in November 1985. Over 100 people died, including 12 Supreme Court judges.

Amnesty International has condemned efforts by the military justice system to take charge of the criminal investigation.

“The military justice system has been key in ensuring that impunity continues to be a defining feature of Colombia’s long-running internal conflict,” said Marcelo Pollack, Amnesty International’s Colombia researcher.

“Under no circumstances must the civilian courts agree to hand over responsibility for this case to their military counterparts.”

A civilian judge will decide on 23 January whether or not to accept the request from the military justice system.

If the request is rejected then the Superior Council of the Judiciary (Consejo Superior de la Judicatura) will have the final say with regards to which institution has jurisdiction over the case.

In 1997, Colombia’s Constitutional Court ruled that all cases implicating the security forces in serious human rights abuses must be investigated by the civilian justice system.

The Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights and the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights have repeatedly made similar calls.