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Republic of Colombia[1] [print]

Last edited: January 2006

 

Summary and Analysis

 

The Republic of Colombia has a formal child protective system. Colombia's Juvenile Code of 1990 states that the child's opinion must be heard either directly or through a representative in all judicial and administrative proceedings affecting the child.  The Domestic Violence Act (Law 294 of 1996) also restates the child's right to freedom of expression as well as the preeminence of children's rights and criminalizes domestic violence, but does not detail the specific rights of children in legal proceedings initiated in response to domestic violence.

 

Many of Colombia's laws strongly emphasize the importance of, and protection for, children expressing their own opinions, both in legal proceedings and in all other arenas of public life. In fact, the Constitution itself guarantees as fundamental rights for young people both “free expression of opinion” and “active participation in the private and public agencies that are charged with the protection, education, and progress of young people.”[2]

 

In addition, many agencies have been created in Colombia over the past fifteen years to support the institutional child protective framework. Colombia was the first country in Latin America to create the Office of the Juvenile Judge, which is responsible for ensuring that every government program fulfills its commitments to children, protects children, and gives priority to their rights. The Colombian Institute of Family Welfare was created in affiliation with the Ministry of Health to promote and strengthen the integration and development of the family, protect children, and guarantee the rights of children. The Office of the Local Attorney for the Rights of Children, Young People, Women and the Elderly was created to for protect and defend children's human rights.

 

The Convention on the Rights of the Child has the force of law in Colombia. Article 93 of the Colombian Constitution grants the nation's international human rights treaty obligations the status of constitutional law.

 

The culture of violence and crime that has developed in Colombia due to the longstanding combination of armed conflict and illegal drug trafficking indicates that the reality of children's lives in Colombia, particularly children's rights to have their opinions heard, may be quite different from that suggested by the laws and institutions supporting the nation's formal child protective system.  According to a Human Rights Watch Report from 2004:[3]

 

Guerrilla groups, paramilitaries, government armed forces and national police all perpetrate violence and abuses against civilians, including children and adolescents . . . these crimes are often committed with a high level of impunity. Young people have been killed and maimed, victimized by sexual violence, lured and forced into the ranks of combatants, used as informants, marked as targets and driven from their homes.

. . .

The war in Colombia is a war on children.

. . .

In Colombia, few cases of abuses against children ever reach any form of judicial review, and the few that do are generally taken up by military tribunals, knows to be ineffective and partial.

 

Despite our efforts, we were unable to speak with a knowledgeable contact person in Colombia.

 

 

Sources of Law (In Order of Authority)

 

Original Text

 

Constitution[4]

 

Artículo 44

Son derechos fundamentales de los niños: la vida, la integridad física, la salud y la seguridad social, la alimentación equilibrada, su nombre y nacionalidad, tener una familia y no ser separados de ella, el cuidado y amor, la educación y la cultura, la recreación y la libre expresión de su opinión. Serán protegidos contra toda forma de abandono, violencia física o moral, secuestro, venta, abuso sexual, explotación laboral o económica y trabajos riesgosos. Gozarán también de los demás derechos consagrados en la Constitución, en las leyes y en los tratados internacionales ratificados por Colombia.

 

Los derechos de los niños prevalecen sobre los derechos de los demás.

 

Artículo 93

Los tratados y convenios internacionales ratificados por el Congreso, que reconocen los derechos humanos y que prohiben su limitación en los estados de excepción, prevalecen en el orden interno.

 

International Law

 

La Convención sobre los Derechos del Niño[5]

 

Artículo 12

1. Los Estados Partes garantizarán al niño que esté en condiciones de formarse un juicio propio el derecho de expresar su opinión libremente en todos los asuntos que afectan al niño, teniéndose debidamente en cuenta las opiniones del niño, en función de la edad y madurez del niño.

2. Con tal fin, se dará en particular al niño oportunidad de ser escuchado, en todo procedimiento judicial o administrativo que afecte al niño, ya sea directamente o por medio de un representante o de un órgano apropiado, en consonancia con las normas de procedimiento de la ley nacional.

 

Statutes

 

Código del menor de 1990[6]

 

Artículo 10

Todo menor tiene derecho a expresar su opinion libremente y a conocer sus derechos. En consecuencia, en todo proceso judicialo administrativo que pueda afectarlo, deberá ser oído directamente o por medio de un representante, de conformidad con las norma vigentes.

 

Ley 294 de 1996 - para prevenir, remediar y sancionar la violencia intrafamiliar[7]

 

Artículo 3

Para la interpretación y la aplicación de la presente Ley se tendrán en cuenta los siguientes principios:

e) Son derechos fundamentales de los niños: la vida, la integridad física, la salud, la seguridad social, la alimentación equilibrada, su nombre y nacionalidad, tener una familia y no ser separados de ella, el cuidado y el amor, la educación, la cultura, la recreación y la libre expresión de sus opiniones;

f) Los derechos de los niños prevalecen sobre los de los demás.

 

 

Translation[8]

 

Constitution[9]

 

Article 44

The fundamental rights of children are: life, physical integrity, health and social security, stable diet, name and nationality, to have a family and not be separated from it, care and love, education and culture, recreation and the free expression of opinion.  Children shall be protected against all forms of abandonment, physical or moral violence, abduction, sale, sexual abuse, labor or economic exploitation, and risky work.  Children shall also enjoy all other rights granted in the Constitution, laws, and international treaties ratified by Colombia.

 

The rights of children prevail over the rights of others.

 

Article 93

The international treaties and agreements ratified by Congress that recognize human rights and prohibit their limitation in states of emergency prevail in the national law.

 

International Law

 

Convention on the Rights of the Child[10]

 

Article 12

1. States Parties shall assure to the child who is capable of forming his or her own views the right to express those views freely in all matters affecting the child, the views of the child being given due weight in accordance with the age and maturity of the child.

 

2. For this purpose, the child shall in particular be provided the opportunity to be heard in any judicial and administrative proceedings affecting the child, either directly, or through a representative or an appropriate body, in a manner consistent with the procedural rules of national law.

 

Statutes

 

Juvenile Code of 1990[11]

 

Article 10

A minor has the right to express his opinions freely and to know his rights.  Consequently, in all judicial or administrative proceedings that affect a minor, the minor shall be heard directly or by means of a representative, in accordance with relevant norms.

 

Rights of the Child and Adolescent, Law 294 of 1996[12]

 

Article 3

For the interpretation and application of this Law, keep in mind the following principles:

e) The fundamental rights of children are: life, physical integrity, health and social security, stable diet, name and nationality, to have a family and not be separated from it, care and love, education, culture, recreation and the free expression of opinion.

f) The rights of children prevail over the rights of others.

 

 

Additional Resources and Links

 

Official website of the Government of Colombia

http://www.presidencia.gov.co/

 

Colombia research website

http://www.usip.org/library/regions/colombia.html

 

Colombian Institute of Family Welfare [Instituto colombiano de bienestar familiar]

http://www.icbf.gov.co/ingles/general.asp

 

 

 



Endnotes

[1] This page is also available as a .pdf Document, and Word Document.

[2] See Constitution of Colombia, Articles 44 and 45, available at http://confinder.richmond.edu/columbia_const2.html.

[3] Watchlist on Children and Armed Conflict: Colombia's War on Children, February 2004, available at http://www.watchlist.org/reports/colombia.report.php.

[4] Constitución política de la República de Colombia, available at http://www.georgetown.edu/pdba/Constitutions/Colombia/col91.html, and also here, and also as .pdf Document, and also as Word Document.

[5] La Convención sobre los Derechos del Niño, Artículo 12, available at http://www.unicef.org/spanish/crc/fulltext.htm.

[6] Código del menor de 1990, available at http://www.secretariasenado.gov.co/leyes/C_MENOR.HTM, and also here, and also as .pdf Document, and also as Word Document.

[7] Ley 294 de 1996, available at http://www.secretariasenado.gov.co/leyes/L0294_96.HTM, and also here, and also as .pdf Document, and also as Word Document.

[8] All translations are unofficial. They were prepared by Samantha Tweedy, a law student.

[9] Political Constitution of the Republic of Colombia, available at http://confinder.richmond.edu/columbia_const2.html.

[10] The Convention on the Rights of the Child, Article 12, available at http://www.unicef.org/magic/briefing/uncorc.html.

[11] Juvenile Code of 1990, available at http://www.secretariasenado.gov.co/leyes/C_MENOR.HTM [in Spanish].

[12] Law 294 of 1996, available at http://www.secretariasenado.gov.co/leyes/L0294_96.HTM [in Spanish].

 

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