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Colombia has broad counterterrorism legislation in force that may capture protests within its ambit. It is one of relatively few countries to criminalize terrorism differently in peacetime and in armed conflict, in accordance with international law.

Compliance with International Law:
Last updated: one year ago

The Definition of Terrorism in Domestic Law

In peacetime, the definition of terrorism in the Criminal Code is as follows:

“Anyone who provokes or maintains the population or a sector of it in a state of anxiety or terror, through acts that endanger the life, physical integrity or freedom of people or the buildings or means of communication, transportation, or pipes containing liquids, using means capable of causing havoc.Art. 343, 2000 Criminal Code of Colombia.

The breadth of the definition risks capturing protests that impact on buildings or transportation. 

Colombia criminalizes terrorism in the context of an armed conflict in its Criminal Code as follows:

Whoever, on the occasion and in the development of armed conflict, carries out or orders to carry out indiscriminate or excessive attacks, or makes the civilian population the object of attacks, retaliation, acts or threats of violence, whose main purpose is to terrorize it....Art. 144, 2000 Criminal Code of Colombia.

This equates to the prohibition in treaty and customary international humanitarian law whereby "Acts or threats of violence the primary purpose of which is to spread terror among the civilian population are prohibited."  

Adherence to Global and Regional Treaties on Terrorism

Colombia has adhered to most major United Nations treaties on terrorism. 


Adherence to Global Terrorism Treaties
Treaty Adherence
1973 Convention on Crimes against Internationally Protected Persons State Party
1979 Hostage-Taking Convention State Party
1997 Terrorist Bombings Convention State Party
1999 Terrorist Financing Convention State Party
2005 Nuclear Terrorism Convention Signatory


Colombia has also adhered to the Inter-American treaty on terrorism.


Adherence to Regional Terrorism Treaties
Treaty Adherence
2002 Inter-American Convention against Terrorism State Party

Laws and Penalties for Terrorist Offences

Colombia prescribes a term of imprisonment for terrorism in armed conflict of between twenty years and no more than thirty-nine years (450 months).Art. 144, 2000 Criminal Code of Colombia.

For terrorism in peacetime, the penalties are a prison term of between 160 and 270 months.Art. 343, 2000 Criminal Code of Colombia.If the state of terror is caused by a telephone call, tape, video, cassette, or anonymous writing, the penalty shall be thirty-two to ninety months in prison.Art. 343, 2000 Criminal Code of Colombia.

Also criminalized are the financing of terrorism and organized crime groups and other forms of support to terrorist activities:

Anyone who directly or indirectly provides, collects, delivers, receives, manages, contributes, safeguards or keeps funds, assets or resources, or performs any other act that promotes, organizes, supports, maintains, finances or financially supports organized crime groups, armed groups outside the law or their members, or national or foreign terrorist groups, or national or foreign terrorists, or terrorist activities, will incur in prison from thirteen (13) to twenty-two (22) years and a fine....Art. 345, Criminal Code of Colombia.

Financing or supporting terrorism is an offence of universal jurisdiction under the Penal Code.Art. 16, Criminal Code of Colombia. 

Prosecution of John Fredy Capuano Aldana

The Attorney General Office brought charges against Mr Capuano Aldana for his involvement in a teacher’s death. He had hired an assassin from the Los Paisas criminal organization in 2011. In 2016, he was sentenced to twenty-five years in prison for a range of crimes including murder and acts of terrorism. The Los Paisas group had sought "to subvert the constitutional order or seriously alter public security”, with the criminal acts thus falling within Article 144 of the Penal Code.

Prosecution of Luis Horacio López Calle and Jhony Fredx Yossa Moreno

The Seventh Specialized Court of Bogotá sentenced these two men to thirteen years in prison for having trafficked and obtained weapons for the FARC. They were charged with financing terrorism under Article 345 of the Penal Code. Their defence counsel had argued that the defendants never used their own wealth to sponsor the FARC, since the criminal activity was aimed at selling weapons and not at storing or managing resources for illegal groups. Likewise, it was pointed out that it was not verified that the weapons were actually used by the guerrillas and that his clients never sympathized with his political ideology. The judge, however, claimed that it was not necessary to prove that the defendants sought to "promote" the FARC, as claimed by the Prosecutor's Office, since there was a pre-existing link with the group that materialized in the supply of weapons.

Counterterrorism Capacities and Policies at Domestic Level

Counterterrorism capabilities generally fall under the National Police of Colombia, which has two dedicated units:

COPES (Special Operations and Antiterrorism Command Unit)COPES "has the mission of carrying out high-impact police operations at the urban and rural levels throughout the national territory, with highly trained personnel in special operations to counteract people, groups or organizations outside the law and terrorists".

UNIPOL (National Unit of Police Intervention and Antiterrorism of the National Police)The mandate of UNIPOL is to "Contain terrorist, extortion or insecurity threats, through effective interventions that allow the police service to be consolidated, contributing to citizen security and coexistence".


Codigo Penal Colombiano (2000)

Capuano case judgment (2016)