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About the judicial system

Key facts

The justice system in Colombia follows the French model

Bifurcated judicial system:

  • Private law (civil matters)
  • Public law (administrative and criminal matters)

Under the doctrine of the separation of powers, the judiciary in Colombia includes the following institutions:

  • The Constitutional Court
  • The Supreme Court
  • The Council of State of Government
  • The Superior Tribunals (High Court)
  • The Regional Courts
  • The First Instance Courts
  • The Administrative Courts

Development of Colombia's justice system

The Judiciary in Colombia has experienced many changes since the independence of Nueva Granada from the Kingdom of Spain in 1811 and it has evolved over time:

From 1832 to 1886: Approval of six constitutional texts which organised the Judiciary through a Supreme Court of Justice, based in the capital, Bogota

1910-1914: A new legal reform is carried out. The main goal is the restriction of the concentration of powers in the figure of the President of the Republic. The Judiciary assumes a very important role in the control of the Executive

1945: Further development of the Judiciary following the European model. The territory of the country is divided into judicial districts and the Supreme Court of Justice is divided into different areas. The judges of the Court are elected by the legislative chambers, half of the judges chosen by the Senate Chamber and the other half, by the National Assembly

1991: Largest reform of the Colombian justice. The new constitutional law dedicates articles 234 to 257 of the title VIII to the regulation of the judicial branch. It creates the Office of the General Attorney, an agency responsible for investigating the crimes - whether ex-officio or upon complaint - and of accusing the alleged offenders before the courts and tribunals and the Superior Council of the Judiciary. The Superior Council is composed of two rooms, the Administrative and the Disciplinary Room, and its main function is to administer the judicial career. The reform of 1991 is also a breakthrough for the indigenous people of Colombia, because for the first time in the history of the country they see their rights included in the Constitution and protected by the nation's judicial system

2009: To deal with consistent low rankings for judicial efficiency, the World Bank launches a programme called the Justice Services Strengthening Project for Colombia, which tries to strengthen the capacity of the Judiciary and the Ministry of Interior and Justice (MIJ) to deliver quality dispute resolution services to citizens on time

2013: The World Bank ranks the Colombian justice system at 150 among 183 countries regarding its judicial efficiency, which makes it in the third slowest in Latin America and the sixth slowest in the world. The European Union also shows serious concern regarding the Judiciary in Colombia. During the EU-Colombia Human Rights Dialogue in Brussels on June 17, 2013, EU officials highlight the necessity of fighting against impunity, with special emphasis on the rights of victims to truth and justice. They also urge greater EU-Colombia cooperation in this area to improve the justice system.

Political prisoner