President Duque leads call on life imprisonment for crimes against children

By Arjun Harindranath October 3, 2018

Photo: Bogota Post Archive

Following the brutal murder of a young girl in Fundacíon, Magdalena, President Duque has called for harsher penalties against those committing crimes against minors. Adolfo Arrieta, 47, has been arrested and charged for the murder of nine-year-old Génesis Rúa in a crime that Duque said “makes Colombians shudder” and should serve as reason to reinstate life sentences for those committing violent acts against minors.

“We can not continue to see more abuses against children in this country,” the Colombian President said, insisting that a public debate needed to take place on whether stricter penalties should be installed against those that commit heinous acts towards children.

In Colombia, the rights of the child are specifically protected under article 44 of the Constitution but the letter of the law is far divorced from the reality many children face in the country. According to Medicina Legal, a government institute on legal medicine and forensic sciences, 457 minors have been killed this year alone. This year has also seen over 15,000 children be victims of sexual crimes with the overwhelming majority (over 13,000) being young girls, suggesting that children remain highly vulnerable to violence and sexual crime in the country.

El Carmen is around 270km from Cucuta

Even this morning, Colombian media reported the abduction of 5-year-old Cristo José Contreras, son of El Carmen Mayor Edwin Humerto Contreras, in the department of Norte de Santander as the child was on his way to school.

In relation to the abduction this morning, President Duque stated that the penalties for kidnapping minors should be life imprisonment as well.

“The moment to debate life sentences has arrived and we must include the kidnapping of minors in that category.”

Life sentences in Colombia have been abolished (60 years being the maximum) but remain a topic of interest within political discourse. The issue arose recently in the context of the JEP–the special Tribunal tasked with presiding over cases relating to Colombia’s long-standing conflict–as it was argued that serious crimes against minors shouldn’t be subject to lesser penalties.

Despite disagreement over penalties within the JEP, however, the murder of Genesis Rúa, has led to some rare bipartisan agreement with Green Party member Claudia López for one arguing that femicide should allow for harsher sentences, including that of life imprisonment.

Correction: This article originally stated that 5-year-old Cristo José Contreras had been found though this has still not been confirmed and the boy’s whereabouts are still uncertain. The Governor of Norte de Santander had erroneously tweeted the boy had been found, which was then republished by us. A full article detailing the events can be found here. We regret any alarm that may have been caused.