Ignoring IACHR no ‘direct and clear’ violation of Colombia’s constitution: former magistrate

Posted on Mar 20 2014 - 8:47pm by Rico

President Juan Manuel Santos’ decision to ignore the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR)’s order to keep former Bogota mayor Gustavo Petro in office is not a “direct and clear” violation of Colombia’s constitution, a former Constitutional Court magistrate said Thursday.

MORE: Santos Ignores International Court Order, Replaces Bogota Mayor

Santos’ decision to finalize the impeachment of Petro has brought on not only scathing criticism from predominantly left-wing politicians, but also questions as to the legitimacy of the decision deemed as unconstitutional.

Violation of constitutional rights?

Progressive politicians like Senator-elect Claudia Lopez called the decision a “violation of the Constitution and of our right to decide at the polls who governs us.”

However, according to former Constitutional Court Magistrate Alfredo Beltran, decisions made by the Inter-American Court are seen to be legally binding to the respective countries, however, this does not necessarily apply to those made by the IACHR.

“The government has said that the precautionary measures only have binding force when they are adopted by the Inter-American Court and not when they are adopted by the Commission, because in this case they say they are simple recommendations,” he explained to Colombia Reports.

“I believe that they are not recommendations but are binding, and that’s what is under discussion,“ he said.

Political rights vs. human rights

This discussion, Beltran explained, spills into the debate over the violation of Petro’s political rights as opposed to his human rights, as the Colombian judicial system has in the past welcomed rulings by the IACHR that dealt directly with the latter.

“What happens is that some of us believe that political rights in a democratic state are the same thing [as human rights], but that has been part of the debate.”

In an interview with Colombia Reports on Thursday, a high-level official for the IACHR said the Court would prioritize the response to President Santos’ decision to ignore their Commission’s call.

MORE: IACHR prioritizes ruling on Colombia’s refusal to keep Bogota mayor in office

What now for Bogota?

On Thursday, the interim Mayor Rafael Pardo, chosen by the Colombian President, was sworn into office, which although has no “fixed term limit” could technically last only weeks or even days.

According to Beltran, President Santos has two days to solicit a list from Petro’s Progressives Party (Partido Progresistas) outlining three possible candidates who will replace the ousted mayor, after which the party has 10 days to produce the list.

From that point Santos will chose Petro’s replacement and will more than likely announce a new election day for the post, required to take place no more than 55 days later, “which means that the elections may take place at the end of May or in June,” Beltran said.

MORE: Pardo sworn in as Bogota’s interim mayor

Petro is the second elected mayor of Bogota to be removed from office within four years; Former Mayor Samuel Moreno was ousted in 2011 after revelations he had illegally received millions of dollars in a public works corruption scheme.


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