Corte Constitucional de Colombia

English

 C-379/2016. The plebiscite as an endorsement mechanism to guarantee the ending of the armed conflict 

 

In this ruling, the Colombian Constitutional Court upheld the constitutionality of a statutory law (the statutory bill No.  941 of 2015 (Senate) and No. 16 of 2015 (House)) regulating the plebiscite as an endorsement mechanism to guarantee the ending of the armed conflict and the construction of a stable and lasting peace after signing the final agreement. The Court stated that the plebiscite is binding for the President and such agreement is a political decision that doesn´t require the incorporation of a regulatory text into the Colombian legal system.

Indeed, the Court reminded that the plebiscite is a participatory mechanism  provided for in Article 104 of the Political Constitution, which is a regulation for both the plebiscite and the consultation of the people,  and it has been described by the Colombian case law as  a tool through which the people participate in making a decision that defines the fate of the Nation. The Court noted that, although the constitutional regulation about  the plebiscite is scarce, it is possible to identify within the Constitution the essential aspects of the plebiscite: (i) It is a mechanism for citizen participation which can only be called by the President, in those cases he deems it necessary; (ii) It is aimed at consulting citizens about a political decision of the Government on matters that fall within their competence (a decision by the people); (iii) It provides popular legitimacy to the initiative of the Head of State; and, also, (iv) It is binding, since it is a political mandate from the sovereign people.

The Court reaffirmed that the content of the popular mandate expressed through this mechanism is not normative but political. Hence, the Court declared the title of the draft statutory law conditionally constitutional, appropriate to the nature of the mechanism for citizen participation, due to an understanding that the Final Agreement which will be the subject of community consultation in the form of a plebiscite, is a political decision and therefore, the endorsement which is mentioned in the title and the Articles 1, 2 and 3 of the bill, doesn´t require the incorporation of a regulatory text into the Colombian legal system. While it is true that the Article 1 is in accordance with the Charter, it fits into the democratic framework, in order to channel the will of the people on major issues such as the completion and implementation of a peace process, no matter that they have to do with the effectiveness of the law and the value of peace, this mechanism must fulfil the conditions to be truly democratic, so that it does not change the purpose for which it was set by the people.

Likewise, the decision determined the extent of participation of public worker in the plebiscite and the measures to ensure the publicity and the information about the Final Agreement to all the citizens.