Crisis as Constitutional Court ends fast track for passing peace legislation

News from Colombia | on: Monday, 22 May 2017

The Colombian peace process has been put in jeopardy after the Colombian Constitutional Court decided to partially retract its approval of the fast track process. This was a special legislative mechanism that allowed the Colombian Congress to quickly pass the necessary laws to implement the peace deal.

Although the Court had approved the mechanism last December, in a shock decision on Wednesday 17th May, the magistrates ruled that "fast track" was unconstitutional as it allowed Congress to vote on the laws to implement the accords in blocks. Stating that this contravened the separation of powers, the Court ruled that Congress will now have to vote on the laws article by article. This will considerably slow the implementation of the peace deal, which has already suffered major delays, and permit possible amendments to the peace agreements.

Whilst the ruling will not affect laws already passed through the fast track process, such as the amnesty bill, it will have a huge impact on the considerable amount of legislation that still needs to be passed. This includes complex issues relating to rural and electoral reform and security guarantees, amongst others. The special peace justice system, which has already been passed by Congress, still needs a statutory law to be fully legalised. Even with the fast track process Congress has been painfully slow at passing the necessary laws to implement the agreements.

The ruling, which took many by surprise, came as a result of a suit filed by the opposition senator Iván Duque who has been one of the main opponents to the peace process, alongside his colleagues in the right-wing Democratic Centre party, led by former president Alvaro Uribe.

Responding to the shock decision, FARC leader Timoleón Jiménez stated that all FARC members in the transitory zones would enter into "permanent assembly" or a state of alert. In a statement he said that President Santos had the duty to protect the agreement.

Politicians across the political spectrum and the government's chief negotiator also expressed alarm. Humberto de la Calle stated his concern that the decision would open the floodgates to major modifications to the peace deal and called for the Colombian people to mobilize in support of what has been agreed in Havana.

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