Concessions awarding Colombian victims 16 seats in the senate have been put on hold once again, as Senatorial President Efrain Cepeda says the move is unconstitutional.
As paramilitaries continue to pillage Colombia’s rural sectors, delays continue to plague the final steps which promise to bring an end to the suffering of the campesino, indigenous and afro-Colombian communities.
Cepeda rejected an order form Bogota’s administrative judge, Catalina Diaz, to send the legislation awarding nearly 20 representatives to indigenous groups on to the House of Representatives, claiming that by law only Congress can approve the act and consequently put it into motion.
According to Cepeda, the judge did not have the "right to do so" and has committed an "inadmissible usurpation of the powers of the legislative body"
"Today strictly adhered to the law, it is my duty as president of the legislative body of the public power, to preserve the institutionality of the Congress of the Republic," he said in a document he read before the plenary of Congress.
“It is worrying then, that a judge of the Republic is assuming powers that by constitutional mandate has been specifically assigned by the Congress of the Republic to reform the Constitution, in its capacity as the highest democratic representative body, since in our social state of law it is the only one that has the attribution to take that type of decisions in its condition as a derivative constituent," said the president of the Senate.
Per the Peace Agreement signed by members of the FARC and government officials, the concession opened the floor to representation for victims of over 50 years of conflict. Though the agreement was approved over a year ago, certain sections of the agreement, like rights to victims, are still awaiting Congressional approval.
The initiative has so far acquired 50 supporting votes from the 102 members. However, Cepeda explained that the draft legislation still fails to meet the list of requirements needed to grant ministerial approval, namely a minimum of 51 senatorial votes.
"Not having the victims in the bosom of democracy is losing a great opportunity to be a different country with the voice of them, for the changes that Colombia requires today," said Human Rights attorney Paula Gaviria.
To date, only two elements of the Peace Agreement have been formally approved: judicial protection for the peace process, and special jurisdiction for peace. Ten bills have yet to appear on the congressional agenda.
Together, the bills would provide as many as eight million victims and 16 regions with extra representation, regions which have long been neglected by the government and continue to reel from drug-fueled violence.