Taking Stock of Procedural Reforms in Colombia: Pretrial Detention, Due Process, and Accountability (1991- 2020)

Johanna Mora, Paula Mora, Andres F. Rengifo

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter


This chapter provides an overview of the design and consolidation of Colombia’s new criminal procedural framework and its impact on routines of pretrial review and adjudication (1991-2020). More specifically, it documents key legal reforms that prompted the transition from an inquisitorial system to an accusatory framework grounded on adversarial principles. It also shows how recent legislative changes-particularly Law 906 of 2004-reorganized the national system of pretrial justice and the use of pretrial detention given renewed principles of due process and accountability. These changes also encompassed the realignment of key institutions in the judicial branch, including the creation of the Office of the Attorney General and of specialized judges, as well as the adoption of new rules that broadened the participation of attorneys and other parties during the decision-making process of the court. We supplement this review of the formal governing structure of pretrial justice and its institutional context with an empirical assessment of current practices associated with the review and adjudication of cases in two main cities of Colombia: Bogota and Cali. Based on a random sample of 330 hearings observed by trained raters between February to November 2016, we find that pretrial decisions are associated with “legal” factors attached to the severity of the offense as well as “extra-legal” factors such as type of defense and the racial or ethnic origin of suspects. Thereby, although some reforms fulfilled broader expectations associated with more judicial oversight to reduce the indiscriminate use of pretrial detention, the aspirations of a more fair, effective, and modern justice administration system remain under-developed.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Title of host publicationHandbook on Pretrial Justice
PublisherTaylor and Francis
Number of pages15
ISBN (Electronic)9781000431827
ISBN (Print)9780367712181
StatePublished - Jan 1 2021

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Social Sciences(all)


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