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I. Legal Framework

Legislative Responses to Terrorism

The Legislative Act No. 2 of 2003 modified certain articles of the Constitution in order to grant authorities powers to fight and prevent terrorism.1
The Act allows authorities:
  • to intercept or register mail and other forms of private communications without a court warrant, but on serious grounds only, and upon immediate notification to the Procuradur General de la Naci,2 and to be reviewed by a judge within the following 36 hours;
  • to keep a register of the residence of every inhabitant on the Colombian territory;
  • to conduct, without previous court order, arrests, raids and residence inspections, where there are serious motives related to the prevention of terrorist acts, but only upon immediate notification to the Procuradur General de la Naci; and subject to a later review by a judge within the following 36 hours. 
On December 10, 2003, the Senate passed a constitutional reform named "Anti-terrorism Act" containing provisions that would authorize government authorities to intercept private communications without judicial authorization in cases related to terrorism. This Constitutional reform provides that: "In order to prevent terrorist acts, a law will regulate the form and conditions in which the authorities it indicates can, based on serious reasons, intercept or examine the correspondence and other forms of private communication, without previous judicial order."3 According to Amnesty International, this constitutional reform undermines human rights.4
In June 2004, the House of Representatives enacted legislation implementing the new constitutional reform. Article 4 of the anti-terrorism law allows the army, the police and the Administrative Department of Security (DAS) to carry out searches, tap telephones and intercept private correspondence without a judicial authorization in the case of persons suspected of terrorist links. Because the "anti-terrorism statute" involves a constitutional reform and the "anti-terrorism law" involves fundamental human rights, they must receive the endorsement of the Constitutional Court before becoming law. On August 30, 2004, the Constitutional Court declared this reform unconstitutional due to procedural irregularities during the approval of the law in Congress.5