COLOMBIA: Lawsuit to Constitutional Court to extend the exception to perform military service to all ethnic communities

A group of Colombia soldiers
Source: Pixabay - Creative Commons Licence
Natalia García Cortés


In July, the Constitutional Court in Colombia received a lawsuit to extend the exception to perform compulsory military service to all ethnic communities in Colombia, an exception that currently applies to indigenous communities only. This claim also asks for these communities to be exonerated of the military compensation fee (a sum of money that young men can pay in order to receive their military card without doing military service).

The lawsuit states that indigenous communities but also black, afro-Colombians, raizales, palenqueras and ROM communities are ethnic groups that, according to the Constitution, are entitled to group-differentiate fundamental rights.

The Ombudsman's Office presented a concept to the Court supporting the arguments of the lawsuit, ensuring that the current norm is against the principle of formal equality or prohibition of discrimination.

On the contrary, the Ministry of Interior recommended to the Court not to change the actual norm arguing that “the equality right doesn’t exclude giving different treatment to individuals that are under the same circumstances if there’s a reasonable argument that justifies it”. However, the lawsuit presented affirms that the norm doesn’t specify why, in the recruitment law 1861 of 2017, these other ethnic groups are not included in the list of exceptions to perform military service.

Sources: El tiempo, Corte estudia si excluye o no a la población afro del servicio militar, August 5, 2021. Infobae, Procuraduría pide que exoneración del servicio militar obligatorio se extienda a todos los grupos étnicos del país, August 5, 2021. Procuraduría General de la Nación, Procuraduría pidió que la exoneración de prestar el servicio militar obligatorio se extienda a las comunidades afrocolombianas, raizales, palenqueras y ROM, August 5, 2021.

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