Colombia’s ruling right-wing party proposed a law Tuesday that would allow politicians convicted of corruption and other crimes to retroactively appeal their sentences. The law would apply to those who have been convicted since 1976, which means 250 politicians would have the right to appeal their guilty verdicts.
Colombian General Dismissed for Corruption Connection
Former right-wing President Alvaro Uribe is said to be behind the proposal, which has been dubbed the “Andres Felipe Arias bill” because it has been proposed in response to the U.S. denying asylum to Felipe Arias, an ally of Uribe’s government who’s been charged with corruption.
Arias, Uribe's former agriculture minister, fled to the U.S. in 2014 after being charged for embezzling US$25 million in state funds that were destined for small farmers. He applied for asylum claiming persecution, but U.S. authorities found insufficient grounds for his claim, deporting him back to Colombia.
Uribe argues the law is needed because, in Colombia, high profile defendants can only be tried by the supreme court, which until last year had no option for appeal.
However, legal experts have said if closed cases are reopened, the convicted politicians could argue that they cannot be tried twice and therefore escape serving their sentences. Uribe has not provided assurances against such cases.
Furthermore, the law says the judges that will preside over the appeals will be selected directly by the president, which could open the door to political interference, and politicians being released based on political loyalties.
Uribe’s government was riddled with allegations of corruption and human rights abuses and numerous figures of his administration faced charges including Uribe himself.