Colombia is a country with unique and dynamic criminal justice challenges, ranging from transnational organized crime to transitional justice issues. The Rodrigo Lara Bonilla Judicial Training School (JTS) is a state-run center responsible for the training of Colombia’s judges and judicial staff. This includes training them on how to apply the revised 2004 Criminal Procedure Code; new procedural regulations related to administrative, labor, and private law; and international standards. It also includes training them on functional areas such as efficient court administration and case management.
The scope of JTS’s work is enormous. Its responsibilities range from administering a course for those aspiring to the judicial career – which runs into the tens of thousands of applicants at a time – to delivering continuing legal education for judges and judiciary staff in specific subject matters. These include narcotrafficking, anti-corruption, money laundering, organized crime, plea bargaining, and case management, among others. The school performs all of this with a limited budget and staff, just twenty-six permanent personnel who administer programming for a constituency of more than 5,400 judges and 25,800 courthouse personnel nationwide.
Strengthening the courts is a key strategic goal of ABA ROLI. This goal ensures that the cycle of criminal justice is completed in a just and equitable manner, from arrests and investigations by the police, to the preparation of cases by the prosecutor, and ending with fair and transparent trial processes.
Since 2019, ABA ROLI has worked to improve the capacity of Colombian court personnel to function effectively, efficiently, and justly. Well-trained, professional and ethical judges and judiciary staff are critical to delivering justice by reducing impunity, punishing corruption, and gaining the trust of the citizenry. Improving the skills and competencies of judges and key judiciary personnel is critical to ensuring the judiciary delivers effective due process and procedural justice that adheres to the Colombian Constitution and international standards. Given the JTS’ limited financial and human resources, ABA ROLI focuses on targeted impacts using state-of-the-art methodologies and thought leadership in judicial education and organizational management.
Another key strategic goal of ABA ROLI is strengthening protections for the human rights of migrants. Colombia is subject to a complex array of emerging and evolving development challenges arising from the influx of approximately 1.4 million Venezuelans in recent years. Migrants and Colombian returnees face a confluence of challenges that receptor communities have endured for years, such as limited public protection and justice services, the presence of illegal armed groups, complex criminal dynamics, and a lack of economic inclusion opportunities, particularly for vulnerable population groups. These mixed migration flows – which are expected to continue for the foreseeable future – have elevated the risk of human trafficking, sexual exploitation, forced recruitment, forced disappearance, and different forms of gender-based violence (GBV).
ABA ROLI is responding to this complex challenge by facilitating the delivery of technical assistance to Colombia’s institutional actors to prevent and respond to human rights violations, strengthen community protection and security, and develop networks, with a focus on legal rights and processes. These actors include the Colombian government, legal profession, and civil society groups focused on justice and human rights. We incorporate the principles of gender equality and social inclusion (GESI) throughout our work.