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Citizens of the Global Village Think About the Year Ahead : COLOMBIA

January 01, 1991|Times correspondents asked a variety of ordinary citizens in different countries about their hopes and fears for 1991. Their answers ranged from the blatantly political to the guardedly personal

Dr. Antonio Suarez Nino, 30, Bogota criminal court judge.

"Colombia's justice system will become even more precarious next year because the government is making bad changes in the law in order to convince drug traffickers to turn themselves in. President (Cesar) Gaviria says that surrendering traffickers are not going to be extradited and tried abroad but rather here in Colombia. Many judges, including myself, have always been against extradition. But the problem is that the climate of threats against judges is going to continue to exist. This is because organized crime--the factor that has generated these threats and assassinations--is not going to disappear.

"I have received several death threats over the years. I don't think I'm going to feel any safer next year despite Gaviria's so-called efforts to defend the justice system.

"The fact is that this administration doesn't have the political will to make the system operable, only more repressive. The government recently approved the use of anonymous judges and witnesses to try drug traffickers. Defendants will not even be able to confront their accusers. The administration has also given police new investigative powers, including the ability to raid homes and intercept phone calls without a court order. These repressive measures will hurt judges by further reducing their independence.

"If the government wants to strengthen the judicial branch, it should begin by giving judges respect and dignified treatment. Right now we are on the verge of a national strike because the government has not paid our December salaries. You can't refuse to pay judges and then ask them to put their lives on the line to defend a law that may be changed tomorrow as part of negotiations with drug traffickers."

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