Key issues within Colombia's judicial system

The need for judicial reform is a widespread issue in Latin America with many social and political groups campaigning for change. Most judiciaries in Latin America are weak, overly politicised and dependent on executive power.

In Colombia, the traditional judicial and political elites are not very widely separated and in fact include members in common. Columbia has a particular issue with the improper application of pre-trial, or 'preventative', detention. While some countries use this in cases where the accused would be likely to commit additional crimes if they were released, in Columbia the practice is indiscriminate in terms of the occasions it is used, the way it is executed and for how long. There is little control over pre-trial detention and Columbian jurisprudence does not reflect the standards set by International Law.

In addition, Columbian courts are frequently criticised for their chronic inefficiency; the bureaucratic structure is cumbersome and outdated which considerably slows the administration of justice.

All these factors lead to distrust in the system from the private sector and the general public. Yet, the prime failing of the system is that there is a lack of justice for Colombian citizens who frequently face infringements of their basic human rights.

There are numerous cases where innocent citizens have had their freedom taken away, sometimes for a number of years, only to be found innocent and acquitted of charges against them.

In Colombia, individuals are not innocent until proven guilty and the widespread use of preventative detention, combined with the lack of judicial independence, means that speculation in the media or political infighting can be enough to imprison those unfortunate enough to be implicated. Furthermore, the administrative failings of the system means that it can take years for these individuals to be found innocent and released, resulting in severe loss freedom and in some cases great reputational damage and social stigma.

Political prisoner