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Colombia; United States: Constitutional Court Suspends Military Cooperation Agreement

(Aug. 26, 2010) The Constitutional Court (CC) of Colombia decided on August 17, 2010, that the Acuerdo Complementario para la Cooperación y Asistencia Técnica en Defensa y Seguridad entre los Gobiernos de la República de Colombia y el de los Estados Unidos de América (Complementary Agreement on Cooperation and Technical Assistance on Defense and Security between the Republic of Colombia and the United States of America), signed by former President Alvaro Uribe on October 30, 2008, in Bogotá, will have to be returned to the Colombian Congress, to comply with the proper approval process, in order to pass its constitutionality test. The Agreement provides for the use of seven military bases in Colombia by U.S. military personnel, as part of the bilateral cooperation against drug trafficking and terrorism. (Corte Constitucional de Colombia, Comunicado No. 40(Aug. 17, 2010), http://www.corteconsti

The CC verified that the Agreement was not a simple agreement but one that carries new obligations for the Colombian government. It also extends obligations already acquired under prior agreements. This is the reason why the CC decided that it should have been treated as an international treaty and thus submitted for approval by Congress and subsequently reviewed by the CC. (Id.)

The Agreement allows American troops and contractors to access and use at least seven military bases in Colombia; it permits free circulation of foreign ships, airplanes, and tactical vehicles in Colombian territory; grants the application of an immunity statute to foreign personnel, and diplomatic privileges to contractors and subcontractors of the United States. (Art. 3.4, id.) Uribe signed the Agreement and was determined to make it effective immediately, without congressional approval, on the grounds that it was complementary to a prior, 1974 agreement. However, the CC considered the 2009 agreement to be an entirely new instrument, which requires congressional approval to meet constitutionality standards. (Corte Constitucional no dio visto bueno a tratado con EE.UU.: Acuerdo militar, en manos del Congreso, DIARIO EL MUNDO (Aug. 18, 2010),
; Presidente Santos dice que fallo de la Corte sobre bases militares no afecta cooperación con EE.UU., ELTIEMPO.COM (Aug. 18, 2010),