October 22, 2020

Controversy over the proposal to revive the seats for victims in Colombia

The announcement of the president of the Colombian Senate, Lidio García, to send the legislative project that creates 16 seats for the victims of the armed conflict to presidential sanction, revoking a decision that filed him in 2017, generated a controversy in the country on Tuesday.

The liberal congressman confirmed today that he will revoke the administrative act issued three years ago by the then president of the Senate, Efraín Cepeda, in which the constitutional reform that created the seats was declared archived.

“To make this decision, I relied on a decision of the Constitutional Court, a request from the Office of the Attorney General (Public Prosecutor’s Office) and the calls made by different political and social sectors,” Garcia told reporters.


The creation of the 16 seats in the House of Representatives, called Special Transitional Circumscriptions of Peace, is part of the agreement signed by the Government with the currently demobilized Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) in November 2016.

The bill was approved in 2017 in both houses but as the text was modified, a “conciliation” of the two versions was necessary, which was carried out on November 30 of that year in the Senate, where it was bogged down by a mathematical controversy over the votes.

The Senate is made up of 102 members and the initiative had 50 favorable votes, which is why the then secretary general of that chamber, Gregorio Eljach, considered that it could not be approved because he needed a ballot.

The Government then defended that the quorum should be established on 99 authorized senators and not from the total, given that two legislators were imprisoned and another was prosecuted for alleged links with paramilitaries.

However, after several judicial opinions, the bill was finally archived by Cepeda, who today defended his decision by stating that “Article 375 of the Constitution is clear in that ‘in the second period of a legislative procedure, the approval will require the vote of the majority of the members of each Chamber ‘, a majority that was not reached in 2017 “.

The defenders of the seats for the victims try to revive them based on a subsequent ruling by the Constitutional Court that in 2019 established that the quorum does not include the disabled or the empty chairs, which at that time were three, with which the figure of 99 It is correct.


Before the announcement of Senator Garcia, the High Commissioner for Peace, Miguel Ceballos, said today that this process is “absolutely prohibited”, since it is not appropriate to apply a judgment of the Constitutional Court of 2019 to a 2017 decision.

“The interpretation that the president of the Senate wants to give is that a sentence of 2019 could be applied retroactively, that is, towards the past, to a situation of 2017, which is absolutely prohibited because (…) it would be to disrupt the legal order”, Indian.

Ceballos recalled that the Government of President Iván Duque wants to resume that project this year through another legislative procedure, in which all parties can present the candidacy of a victim and in which the representations correspond to the territories where there are more people who suffered the armed conflict.


In parallel, the Constitutional Court is studying a resource by Senator Roy Barreras, of the U Party and defender of the peace agreement, which asks to revive the seats of the victims.

Barreras celebrated Garcia’s announcement today by stating that “peace seats for victims of more than 50 years of conflict will be a reality.”

“Today, January 28, in fortunate coincidence in Colombia, we pay tribute to the victims of the conflict by honoring the agreement we made with their multiple delegations both in Havana and in Colombia, recovering for them their right to the 16 peace seats,” Barreras said.

That position was shared by other senators, including Armando Benedetti, from the U Party, and Antonio Sanguino, from Alianza Verde.

Sanguino expressed his satisfaction because “finally the victims of the conflict will have their representation in Congress, as provided for in the peace agreement.”


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