Better than Never: The Inapplicability of Statutory Limitations for the Prosecution of Crimes Committed Against the Environment and the Public Arcs

In a deeply questionable, but hardly debated criminal policy, Colombian legislation continues to limit the opportunity in which the jurisdiction can be activated to punish and restore legal goods of constitutional relevance; like the integrity of the ecosystems and the public funds. As a consequence, the prosecution of these serious wrongdoings; that directly affect the live conditions of thousands and sometimes millions of people, is only possible during a certain period of time; after which, the wrongdoings are considered legally extinguished by the procedural institution of the prescription; and therefore, out of the reach of the justice administration. The application of these regulations, known in comparative and international law as “statutory limitations”, although reasonable in the sphere of private law, that arbitrates the interest of particulars; is unreasonable in the context of cases that involve the reestablishment of social expectations of greater collective relevance. The Environmental harms that have everlasting consequences, and the corruption that affects social programs, public infrastructure, and other State services needed by the taxpayersshould be excluded from the application of any type of statutory limitations that may restrict the criminal liability and promote impunity. As occurs with human rights violations, and according to international standards of justice; those responsible for these crimes, should be accountable and subject to punishment at any given time. The Convention on the Non-Applicability of Statutory Limitations to War Crimes and Crimes Against Humanity signed in 1968, is the consequence of a long claim for normative measures concerned with the fight against impunity and the promotion of universal standards of justice, that came together with the transition of Europe to democracy. A notable case of this is France, where the law 64-1326 of 1964 declared that, in terms of The United Nations Resolution of February of the same year, the crimes against humanity were imprescriptible. With this approach, France made possible the trial against several notable war criminals like Touvier, Papón y Barbie. Ever since, and in the context of the transition from totalitarian regimes and the aftermath of non-international armed conflicts, the precedents of the Interamerican Court of Human Rights and the Apex Courts of Colombia, have favored the rights of the victims when interpreting the right to access justice. In this sense, they have ruled unequivocally that justice should be served at least on behalf of truth and reparation for the victims; regardless of the passing of time. However, and despite having recognized their link to human rights, this interpretation has not yet been extended to the crimes of corruption or those committed against the environment. This research, is aimed at proving that the existent interdependence between the environment, the public funds and the satisfaction of human rights, calls for the application of a control of conventionality, on the statutory limitations regarding crimes committed against the above mentioned international legal goods.