Colombian Constitution of 1991
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The Political Constitution of Colombia, better known as the Constitution of 1991, is the current governing document of the Republic of Colombia. Promulgated on July 4, 1991, it replaced the Constitution of 1886. It has recently been called the Constitution of Rights.
After an agitated constitutional period in the 19th century, Colombia instituted one of the oldest constitutions in Latin America, dating back to 1886. Nevertheless, after a century in force, the Constitution of 1886 was in need of modifications in order to adapt it to the country's changing social, economic and political conditions.
In 1988, a reform, intended to increase citizens' participation in politics and combat administrative corruption, failed. Therefore, a student and political movement called "Todavía podemos salvar a Colombia" ("We can still save Colombia") proposed the formation of a constituent assembly for the 1990 elections and promoted what was called the Seventh Paper Ballot (séptima papeleta) for this election. The Electoral Counsel did not accept the official inclusion of that vote, which was additional to the votes for Senate, Chamber of Representatives, Department Assemblies, Governors, Municipal Councils and Mayors, but was non-officially counted. Nevertheless, the Supreme Court acknowledged the popular will and validated the Seventh Paper Ballot.
In December 1990, elections were held for members of a National Constituent Assembly, which would promulgate the new constitution in 1991. The presidents of the National Constituent Assembly were Alvaro Gómez Hurtado on behalf of the Conservative Party, Horacio Serpa from the Liberal Party and Antonio Navarro from the M-19 movement.
Main points of change
- Colombia took the shape of a decentralised unified state with a certain autonomy for its territorial entities and a presidential system. The four-year presidential term was retained.
- An accusatory judicial system was established through the Attorney General of Colombia (Fiscalía General de la Nación).
- The power of judicial review was transferred from the Supreme Court of Justice, which had exercised it since 1910, to an independent Constitutional Court. This new body hears challenges to the constitutionality of laws, legislative decrees, laws approving international treaties, and referendum or assembly constituency summons and hears appeals of lower judicial decisions related to the tutelage action of constitutional rights.
- The tutelage action was instituted as a quick and effective mechanism that allows citizens to assert their fundamental rights as stated in Article 8 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights of 1948.
- The extradition of Colombian citizens was banned. This article was repealed in 1996.
- Presidential reelection was banned completely. An immediate re-election was already forbidden in the Constitution of 1886. However, this rule was repealed in 2004 using procedures that were declared valid by the Constitutional Court on October 19, 2005.
- http://www.lablaa.org/blaavirtual/revistas/credencial/abril%202001/136sxx.htm Desde the Constitución de 1886 a the Carta Política de 1991 - Biblioteca Luis Angel Arango (page no longer exists)
- UN Human Rights report containing an English translation of the human rights provisions of the constitution.
- Text of the Colombian Constitution of 1991, in English