Digital Landscape in South America: Colombia

REPÚBLICA DE COLOMBIA / REPUBLIC OF COLOMBIA

Law of Transparency:

Colombia was two decades ahead of its South American neighbors when it enacted Law 57 of 1985, obligating government entities to publish legal acts and official documents.  Article 112 of Colombia’s Constitution also guarantees access to public information although it stops short of obligating governmental entities to proactively publish such information.

Portals:

Latin Laws: Biblioteca Legal Latinoamericana- redirects users to official Colombian government websites and other unofficial databases.  This is a great place to start, but the material posted is now a few years old so follow-up research to confirm currency is required.

IberIUS: Red Iberoamericana de Información y Documentación Judicial- has unofficial, pdf, full-text documents, in its collection including important codes and laws, and will also redirect users to government websites for legal documents such as legislation and jurisprudence.  The site aadditionally provides information using graphs and text to explain a country’s judicial organization, individual courts, and other government organs.

NATLEX is the database of the International Labour Organisation.   The focus of NATLEX is on national labor, social security, and related human rights legislation.  The records in NATLEX provide abstracts of legislation (with internally hyperlinked documents) and relevant citation information.  Full-text pdfs of scanned original document are made available when possible as are links to relevant online resources.  One can browse by county or subject, or search by keywords and by subject classifications.

ECOLEX is a database of environmental law operated jointly by UN Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO), International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), and the UN Environment Programme (UNEP), and incorporates environmental law holdings from each of these organizations.  One can search any number of ways including by country. ECOLEX includes information on treaties, international soft-law and other non-binding policy and technical guidance documents, national legislation, judicial decisions, and law and policy literature. The results are abstracts and citation and indexing information about each document.  Full-text of most documents is obtained by linking the user to government sites containing the document.

FAOLEX is the database of the Food and Agricultural Organization of the United Nations.  After selecting one of 15 topics or “all”, the user is directed to an advanced search screen where one can focus the search by country among other options.  The results are abstracts with citation and indexing information for each document.  Full-text of most documents is obtained by linking the user to government sites containing the document.

The Doing Business Law Library hosted by the World Bank- is the largest free online collection of business laws and regulations.  One can search by economy or individual country; results will link to official government sources wherever possible. Translations are generally not official unless indicated otherwise, and although the database is updated regularly, currency is not guaranteed; therefore, further research would be prudent.

Constitution:

The Constitution is the law of the land in Colombia; it supersedes all other laws.  The current Constitution was promulgated in 1991 and was amended most recently in 2005.

The website of the President has an official pdf version of the current Colombian Constitution - http://wsp.presidencia.gov.co/Normativa/Documents/ConstitucionPoliticaColombia_20100810.pdf

The Political Databases of the Americas at Georgetown University also has the current and several older Constitutions available in unofficial html format - http://pdba.georgetown.edu/Constitutions/Colombia/colombia.html.  Colombia’s 1991 Constitution with 2005 reforms and 2009 reforms are available.

The University of Richmond Constitution Finder - http://confinder.richmond.edu/ - redirects patrons to Colombia’s 1991 Constitution with all amendments up to 2005, and hosts an unofficial English version of the 1991 Constitution.

Although the website, Constituciones Hispanoamericanas - http://bib.cervantesvirtual.com/portal/constituciones/constituciones.shtml - has not been updated since 2005, it is still a good source of constitutions going back to the days of independence, i.e. early 19th century.  Colombia’s 1991 Constitution with 2003 amendments is notably absent.  All documents are unofficial, full-text, html.

 

Codes, Laws, Proyectos, Regulations, Resolutions, and other Legal Norms:

After completing the legislative process- laws, decrees, resolutions, and regulations must be published in the Diario Oficial before they become binding.  They take effect immediately upon publication unless a later date is specified in the legislation.

The Diario Oficial (founded 1864) is online in official pdf and provided free to the public by the government printing office.  The free archives go back to 2001. 

The website of the President of Colombia has all the current decrees organized chronologically and in full-text, scanned, official, authentic pdf - and links users to previous websites for the older decrees, also pdf - (2007-2010) and (1990 – 2006).  Laws are available in chronological order for 2010-2011 in full-text, scanned, official, authentic pdf, as are presidential directives.  A list of norms governing different offices within the executive branch are also referenced in these pages.

The website of the Senate provides a chronological list and the full-text of all current proyectos  or laws proposed in the Senate - in offical, scanned pdf format.  Also available is the official Gaceta del Congreso (congressional gazette) that publishes the proyectos as well as the Ponencias (debates) over the proyectos

Under the Proceso Legislativo tab of the House of Representatives- one can find proyectos back to 2003 as well as many ponencias, all available in doc format with no signs of being official or authentic.  Under this same tab, one can also access historical laws and find links to other legal websites and databases discussed herein.  The website’s search engine is currently not functioning, so browsing the above-mentioned material is necessary.

The national bank of Colombia offers a free database, Juriscol - where users can find laws of the republic from 1964 to present, and decrees from 1982 to present.  The material is presented in unofficial, html format, with full citation to the Diario Oficial and hyperlinks to the laws modified by the current act.  The site administrator reports (in a personal communication on 26 May 2011) that the Bank is working to upload the jurisprudence of the Constitutional Court from its inception in 1992, and jurisprudence from the Supreme Court and Council of State that are relevant to the Bank going back to the Bank’s creation in 1923.

enColombia.com - provides free unofficial html versions of all the Colombian codes.  Currency is unknown.

The World Law Guide has a list of Colombian laws, organized topically, most of which redirect the user to official government websites.   This is a terrific place to look for laws pertaining to a multitude of topics.

English summaries with citations to the Diario Oficial of over 10,000 Colombian laws over the last 60 or so years are available on the Global Legal Information Network (GLIN) of the national Library of Congress of the United States of America.  No full-text is available.  The summaries list related laws and legal resources where available. 

Legislation by Topic:

Several government offices and ministries make relevant decrees, laws, resolutions, and other legal material available on their website.  A few examples are:

The website of the Office of the Prosecutor General - contains relevant House and Senate proyectos, both approved and in process, with citations to the corresponding debates in the Gaceta del Congreso.  One can also find the administrative acts promulgated by the Office of the Prosecutor.

Similarly, the National Unity of Prosecutors for Justice and Peace has a section devoted to laws, decrees, and jurisprudence relevant to civil life - as well as relevant treaties, criminal law, and other court decisions.  All material is available in full-text, unofficial html or pdf.

The Office of the Attorney General, which safeguards the rule of law, the Constitution, and democracy, and monitors ethical issues and violations among the country’s leaders, has a database where one can locate circulars, directives, resolutions, disciplinary decisions, and other documents it produces.  The documents are available in doc format (but the URLs are defective; one has to eliminate manually from the URL the second “\relatoria.procuraduria.gov.co\” to access the documents.  The office also produces a monthly report that contains a summary of recent legislation, high court decisions, and other new legal material relevant to the work of the office.  An official version of the disciplinary code is also available in this database.

The Ministry of Housing and Public Credit has a virtual library - that contains relevant decrees from 2006 and resolutions from 2005, organized chronologically and available in full-text html.  Also available are scanned pdfs of the original CONFIS circulars back to 1991; CONFIS is an internal organ that directs and oversees Colombia’s fiscal policy and budget.

On the website of the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development - under the tab Normativa tab, one can find a handful of relevant laws (the oldest from 1913) and current proyectos , and many decrees and resolutions (from 2005 to current) as scanned pdfs of the original documents.

The Ministry of the Environment provides a chart of relevant 2011 laws, decrees and resolutions linking to the full-text, scanned pdfs of the original official documents.  The chart has columns that explain:  the law’s affected sections within the ministry; a summary of the law; and where it is published.  The website also has a search engine - whereby one can search for current and historical laws, decrees, resolutions, and other relevant legal documents, most of which are scanned pdfs of the original legal documents.

The Ministry of Commerce, Industry, and Tourism has a well-developed and extensive legal collection going back many years of its own circulars and resolutions, and relevant decrees, laws, proposed laws, jurisprudence, norms, and free trade agreements.   There is an index (results are not full-text but rather citations to the Diario Oficial) that allows users to search across types of legal material, or focus on type of norm, number, and keyword.  There is also a bibliographical index and searchable by subject, author, country or document type; a link to full-text is provided when available.

There are many more ministries that have laws, decrees, and resolutions pertinent to their work available on their respective websites, generally under the Normativa or similar tab.

The OAS website on Mutual Assistance in Criminal Matters and Extradition has a page for Colombia- wherein texts such as the Colombian Constitution, the codes of criminal law and criminal procedure, and other relevant national legislation are provided.  There are also bilateral extradition and other relevant treaties, as well as multilateral treaties going back to the early 20th century.  Some of these documents are official pdfs, others are unofficial html, doc, and pdf documents.

The website of the Andean Commission of Jurists, a highly-respected human rights organization based in Lima, Peru - has a tab for legislation and jurisprudence but the material therein is a now outdated.  A note on that page tells readers that the Network of Juridical Information (RIJ) is being updated with the last update July 2008.  Thus, the information found, such as legislation from the individual Andean nations (Bolivia, Chile, Colombia, Ecuador, Peru, and Venezuela) is not up-to-date but is still accessible, as is jurisprudence from constitutional courts, and many webpages explaining various aspects of national and international law.  Hopefully the updating of this valuable tool that brings together multinational and international legal information will be completed soon.

Jurisprudence:

There are four roughly co-equal highest courts in Colombia each with unique jurisdiction:  the Constitutional Court, the Supreme Court of Justice, the Council of State, and the Superior Judicial Council.  The decisions of the Constitutional Court are published in the official Gaceta de la Corte Constitucional (since 1992); those of the Supreme Court of Justice in the official Gaceta Judicial (since 1915); and those of the Council of State in the official Anales del Consejo de Estado.

Although the law of Colombia is not derived from judicial opinions, there has been considerable discussion lately over the existence and role of precedent in the Colombian judiciary especially in the human rights jurisprudence from the Constitutional Court.  One such contention is that a single decision from the Constitutional Court should be followed by lower courts and in subsequent decisions of the Constitutional Court.  Another contention is that three consistent decisions made in similar cases by the Supreme Court of Justice and the Council of State should constitute precedent.  Nonetheless, at this time there is no established or formal tradition of precedent in Colombia though the weight given to the decisions of the highest courts is increasing.

As a signatory to the American Convention on Human Rights, Colombia submits to the jurisdiction of the Inter-American Court of Human Rights as the court of last instance in relevant matters. 

 Jurisprudence of the four high courts can be searched simultaneously, individually, or in any combination on the website of the Judicial Branch.   The range and breadth of coverage is unclear although the Constitutional Court decisions appear to go back to the Court’s creation in 1992.  Results are available in html or doc, which displays the crest of the court on each page.

The Constitutional Court of Colombia also has its own website, recently upgraded, revised, and expanded with an improved search engine - and decisions available from 1992, when the court formed.  There is also a nifty index that pulls together into a chart for each matter, the relevant law, decisions, link to the full-text of the decision, subject matter, and case number.  The results are in html and rtf, and show no signs of authenticity or of being official.

The Supreme Court of Justice (established in 1887) also has its own website where jurisprudence can be located in a number of independent ways - such as selecting the hyperlinked case title in the list of most recent decisions, or browsing one of the thematic indices for hyperlinked cases.  There is not a serach engine available to conduct a thorough and comprehensive search of the Court’s opinions.  Rather, searching is piecemeal and rather clunky.  Still, there is clearly a lot of content available and results are in doc or in pdf, which contain the seal of the Court.

The Superior Counsel of the Judiciary hears administrative and disciplinary matters.  Their decisions are available on their simple website- in html.  One can search by subject, year, case number, or case name.

Doctrine (Journals, Treatises, Commentary):

The Office of the People’s Defender, an independent governmental agency, monitors the actions and omissions of government to defend and ensure human rights and civil liberties for all Colombians.  Their Observatory of Constitutional Justice provides commentary on numerous themes relating to human and civil rights - for groups subject to special protection such as women, children, elderly, handicapped, diverse sexual orientation, indigents, displaced persons, laborers and union workers, and ethnic minorities.

Dialnet - is an open-access index of journals based at the Universidad de La Rioja, Spain.  It contains a large number of Latin American legal journals and articles.  One can search for journals or articles using advanced search functions.  Some articles and journals are available full-text online from the journal website; a few articles are available full-text from these indices.

SciELO- has a portal for Colombia where four legal journals are indexed and available full-text including Revista de Derecho (Universidad del Norte) and  Revista Opinión Jurídica (Universidad de Medellín).

Redalyc is a database of Latin American and Caribbean journals with full-text, authentic pdfs.  It has a section devoted to Colombia - and contains several Colombian law journals such as the Revista Facultad de Derecho y Ciencias Políticas from the Universidad Pontificia Bolivariana, and International Law: Revista Colombiana de Derecho Internacional from the Universidad Pontificia Javeriana.

Latindex- provides bibliographic information for Latin American journals, such as the Revista del Instituto Colombiano de Derecho Procesal , but does not provide a database to search for articles within the journals nor does it provide full-text access to journal content. 

A collection of open access journals from Latin America, including Colombia, can found on the website of the University of Fribourg, Switzerland.

Treaties:

The website of the Constitutional Court of Colombia has a page devoted to multilateral treaties to which Colombia is a party that are relevant to the work of the Court.  These treaties are simply listed alphabetically and are available full-text, unofficial, html.

The Organization of American States (OAS) - has a list of bilateral and multilateral treaties between and among countries in the Americas focusing on extradition, drug trafficking, and international criminal law.  One can browse alphabetically or search by keyword.

The United Nations Treaty Collection - contains the full-text, official, scanned pdf of all multilateral treaties deposited with the United Nations.  One can search by popular name, keyword, United Nations Treaty Series (UNTS) volume, or country.

Commercial Databases:

NOTI.net - is a highly regarded fee-based legal database that provides jurisprudence, norms, codes, and other legal material.

Lex Base: La Base de la Ley - contains and extensive collection of law, jurisprudence, and doctrine including presidential degrees from 1981, current codes and statutes, important laws from 1963, the Diario Oficial and Gaceta del Congreso, resolucions, sentences, and jurisprudence.

vLex has a collection for Colombia - that includes the Diario Oficial from 1979 to the present, and many codes, laws, statutes, and decrees from the 1970s to the present.  vLex also has jurisprudence from the Constitutional Court, the Supreme Court of Justice, State Counselor, the Superior Tribunal of Bogotá, and the Administrative Tribunal of Cundinamarca.  vLex allows users to search across courts or focus on one or more jurisdiction.  All material is unofficial html; there are no official pdfs.  Instant Google translation is available. 

The Index to Foreign Legal Periodicals (IFLP) - indexes one Colombian journal, Estudios de Derecho, from the Universidad de Antioquía in Medellín.  

Kluwer Arbitration - has a database of all bilateral investment treaties including those from Latin American countries.  Most of the BITs are available in full-text html.  Although one can search in English, the results are in the vernacular.

Constitutions of the Countries of the World, recently purchased by Oxford University Press from Oceana, contains unofficial English translations of many past and current constitutions including those from Latin America.  An unofficial English version of Colombia’s 1991 and subsequent amendments including those of 2005 are available.

The NatLaw World Database carries some legislation including the full-text of many codes, laws, decrees, and quite a few Constitutional Court decisions - as published in the Diario Oficial.  The documents are pdfs, some official, but most are unofficial and prepared by the National Law Center for Inter-American Free Trade.

 

Updated Date: 
Sunday, June 9, 2013
Knowledge Base: