The Judicialization of Politics in Colombia: The Old and the New

  • Manuel José Cepeda Espinosa
Part of the Studies of the Americas book series (STAM)


The scope and intensity of judicialization of politics described in this chapter may sound surprising and even incredible for those unfamiliar with Colombia. In a country associated with political violence and the drug trade, a strong tradition of judicial review may appear strange. It is as if there were two countries: one where force reigns, another based on the rule of law. In this chapter, I do not attempt to describe nor explain this paradox. I shall only recall a few basic facts. Colombia has approximately 44 million inhabitants, while guerrilla and paramilitary organizations gather 50,000 armed individuals at the most. These organizations operate mainly in the rural areas of a very large country where 75 percent of the population is urban. The impact of the guerrilla organizations on the country’s institutional processes was dramatically and tragically made evident in 1985 with the violent seizure of the Palace of Justice in Bogota, which resulted in the destruction of the premises and the death of half of the sitting magistrates of the supreme court. However, this did not prevent the supreme court from reassuming its functions two months later, nor did it prevent the strengthening of the administration of justice in general, and of constitutional justice in particular by the creation of a constitutional court, with the adoption of the 1991 constitution.


Judicial Review Legal Provision Judicial Decision Constitutional Amendment Supreme Court 
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Copyright information

© Rachel Sieder, Line Schjolden, and Alan Angell 2005

Authors and Affiliations

  • Manuel José Cepeda Espinosa

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