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Published On: Thu, Sep 21st, 2017

Former Colombian Supreme Court Chief Justice arrested on corruption charges

nsnbc : Justice Francisco Ricaurte, former Chief Justice of Colombia’s Supreme Court, was arrested Wednesday, for his alleged role in a corruption scandal that has shaken up the country’s judicial system and political establishment.

Colombia_Supreme Court_Francisco Ricaurte_(archives)Ricaurte is one of four sitting Supreme Court Justices accused of having accepted bribes to favor allegedly corrupt congressmen. Some of the implicated congressmen have been linked to activities of paramilitary organizations.

Prosecutor General Nestor Humberto Martinez said Ricaurte was arrested on four charges of corruption. Ricaurte would allegedly have accepted bribes from Martinez’ hand-picked anti-corruption chief, Gustavo Moreno, who was arrested in June after pressure by the United States’ Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA). The arrest rocked Colombia’s judicial system. Never before in the history of the Supreme Court has any of its justices been jailed. Ricaurte’s attorney, Alvaro Luna, has reportedly denied the charges.

The involvement of both Supreme Court justices and members of Colombia’s Congress – widely recognized as the country’s most corrupt institution – put the judiciary in an unprecedented situation because no government body seems fit to adequately try the suspects.

Colombia’s 1991 Constitution stipulates that the Supreme Court shall investigate congressmen while Congress’ Accusations Committee is supposed to investigate members of the high courts and top judicial officials. However, as both branches of government appeared to have conspired, these investigations would lack legal standing because of the apparent conflict of interest, not to speak of credibility.

Moreover, the Accusations Committee has reportedly not ruled in any of almost 3,500 investigations since 1992. More than 1,500 investigations never really got started and almost 2,000 investigations have simply been filed without a ruling.

The government has therefore again proposed to form a Tribunal for the Immune that would replace the Accusations Committee and would have the mandate to try top members of the judicial branch. This tribunal was first proposed by the administration of President Juan Manuel Santos in 2014. However, it was rejected by the now-disgraced judicial branch.

The government announced earlier this week it would hold a referendum to seek ratification of the judicial reform. Ironically, it is being debated whether this tribunal could be incorporated in a political reform currently being debated by Congress as part of legislation related to a peace deal with the former guerrilla group FARC.

Prosecutor General Nestor Humberto Martinez, who personally appointed the anti-corruption prosecutor, now in the middle of the scandal, has already agreed to such a tribunal. However, Congress has yet to confirm it will include this tribunal in the reform.

A/N – nsnbc 21.09.2017

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