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CONSTITUTION



Bl^PUBLIC OF COLOMBIA



ilJ''- AUGUST, 1886)



3EDICIOM" OFICIAL?



BQGOTA
2m'I^E.\TA DE ''LA LIZ'



|n % nmt of 6oir, the .Su^unu smxtt ai all atttlioritn,

The Delegates of the Colombian States of Antio-
qnia, Bolivar, Boyacti, Cauca, Cnndinamarca, Magda-
lena, Panama, Santander and Tolima, in National,
Constituent Convention assembled ;

In view of the approval given by the Municipali-
ties of Colombia to the Bases of a Constitution issued
on the 1^' day of December, 1SS5 ;

And with the object of strengthening the Natio-
nal unity and of ensuring the benefits to be derived
from justice, liberty and peace, have agreed to decree,
and do hereby decree the following

POLITICAL CONSTITUTION OF COLOMBIA.

TITLE I

OF THE NATION AND TERRITORY.

Abstract— I. The Nation.— II. Sovereignty.— III. Limits. —
IV. General territorial division.— V. Mode of altering it. —
YI. Other divisions.

ARTICLE 1,

The Colombian Nation is hereby constituted a
centralized Republic.

ARTICLE 2.

Sovereignty is vested essentially and exclusively
in the Nation, from which shall proceed all public
]X)wers, to be exercised within the limits prescribed
by this Constitution.

ALTICr,K 3.

The boundaries of the Repu])lic are the same n.s
those that in ISIO separated the Vice-lloyalty of New



— 4 —

Granada from the Ca])taincics-General of Venezuela
and Guatemala, from the Vice-Royalty of Peru and
the Portuguese possessions of Brazil, and respecting
Ecuador, they shall be provisionally the same as those
desi2;natcd in the Treaty of July 9"', 1856.

The lilies dividing Colombia from contiguous INa-
tions shall be detinitivcly fixed by i)ublic Treaties,
which may ])e ncgfitiated without reference to the
])rinciple of ntij^ossidetis recognized in 1810.

AirircLE 4.

Tlie territory, togoth v with the public property
therein contained, belu;ig exclusively to the JSTation.

Tlic divisions that com|)06ed the Colombian Union,
and were denominated as fStates and jS'ational Terri-
tories, shall continue to be parts of the territory of the
Eepublic of Colombia and shall respectively retain
their present dimensions under the name of De-
partments.

All doubtful dividing lines shall be determined by
Commissions of surveyors to be appointed by the Se-
nate.

The ancient National Territories are hereby iti-
corporated with the divisions to which they originally
belonged.

ARTICLE 5.

The law may decree the formation of new De-
partments to be created out of those already existing,
when the same may have been asked for by four fifths
of the Municipal Councils in the territory to be em-
l)raced in the new Department, subject always to the
folloM'lng conditions:

1. Tliat the new Department shall contain, at
least, two hundred thousand inhabitants;

2. That the Department or Departments out of
which the new one is to be created shall each retain,
at least, two hundred and fifty thousand inhabitants ;

And 3. That the law creating the new Department
shall be enacted by two successive regular Legislatures.



ARTICLE G.

The cxistino- limits of the Departments sliall not be
changed excej3t by ti law enacted in the manner directed
in tlie last clause of the preceding Article,

Congress may, by a law enacted in the usual man-
ner and without the above mentioned conditions, se-
parate the Territories referred to in Article •! and the
Islands from the Departments in which they are now
incorporated or to which they belonged, and dispose
of them as it may deem proper.

AKTICLE 7.

Besides the general division of territory into De-
partments, each of the latter shall be subdivided in the
interest of the public service.

The several divisions relating to finance, military
matters and public education shall be separate and
distinct from the general division,

TITLE II.

OF THE INHABITAJ."TS : XATIVE AXD FOREIGN.

Abstract.— I Status of Colombian citizens. Defined. How it is
forfeited. General obligations of natives and foreigners. Do-
miciled foreigners. Reciprocal limitations of the rights con-
ferred by naturalization. — II Citizenship. Definition thereof.
How forfeited. How suspended. Inherent prerogatives of
citizenship.

ARTICLE 8.

The following persons are declared to be Colom-
bians :

1^'. By birth : '

Those who are natives of Colombia under cither
of the following conditions : that the father or the
mother was a native Colombian, or that being the
children of foreigners, they are domiciled in the Re-
public.

The legitimate children of a Colombian father and
mother who were born in a foreign country and shall



have afterwards fixed their domicile in the Republic,
are considered Colombian by birth for the purposes
indicated in the laws that determine this condition,

2. By origin or vicinity^. (Spanish- American birth).

Those who are born in foreign Countries, of a Co-
lombian father or mother, and are domiciled in the
Republic; and all Spanit^h-Americans who may have
appeared before the Municipal Authorities of the
place in which they reside, and register themselves as
Colombians.

3. By adoption :

Those foreigners who apply for and obtain letters
of naturalization.

ARTICLE 9.

The status of the Colombian citizen is forfeited by
liis obtaining letters of naturalization in a foreign
country fixing therein his domicile, and he may
recover it under laws enacted for that purpose.

ARTICLE 10.

It is the duty of all citizens and foreigners in Co-
lombia to live in submission to the Constitution and
the laws, and to respect and obey the authorities.

ARTICLE 11.

Foreigners shall enjoy in Colombia the same rights
that are conceded to Colombians by the laws of the
Nation to which the foreigners belong, except those
which are stipulated in public treaties.

ARTICLE 12..
The law shall define the condition, as well as the
rights and obligations of all resident foreigners.

ARTICLE 1 3.

Any Colombian, although he may have lost his
citizenship, who may be taken in arms against Co-
lombia, shall be tried and punished as a traitor.

Naturalized foreigners and those residing in Co-



— 7 —

lomljia sliall not be compelled to bear arms against the
country of their birth.

ARTICLE 14:.

Societies and Corporations that in Colombia are re-
cognized as artificial persons shall not enjoy any other
rights than those accorded to natural persons who
are Colombians,

ARTICLE 15.
All male Colombians shall be held to be citizens,
ivho have attained the age of twenty one years, and
who exercise a profession, art or office, or who follow
3. lawful occupation or other legitimate and ostensible
means of support.

ARTICLE 1 6.

Citizenship is lost when nationality is lost. The
<;iuality of citizen shall also be forfeited in either of
the following cases, wlien judicially declared :

^st ^Yi^en \iQ enters the service of a nation at war
with Colombia ;

2 When he shall have belonged to a rebellious
faction against the Government of a friendly nation ;

3. When he shall have been condemned to suffer
corporeal punishment ;

4 When he shall liave been removed from public
office, by means of a criminal procedure or of an act
affecting his civil resix)nsibility.

5**' When he shall have committed acts of violence,
falsehood or corruption in elections.

All persons who may have lost their citizenship
may petition the Senate for restoration.

ARTICLE 17.

The exercise of the rights of citizenship is sus-
pended :

For notorious mental alienation ;
For judicial interdiction ;
For habitual drunkenness;



For charge pending criminal proceedings and
after the issue of a warrant of arrest.

AETICLE IS.

The qualit}' of citizenship is an indispensible con-
dition precedent to the exercise of the right of voting,
and of holding any piibHc office of authority or power.



TITLE III

OF CIVIL RIGHTS AXD SOCIAL GITAKANTEES.

Aestract:— I. General Principles. — II. Liberty, security and
privilege. Property. — III. Eeligion, Education, Printing. Co-
rrespondence. — IV. Industry and occupations. — V. Petition-
Assemblage. Association.— VI. Provissions concerning artiticial
persons and civil condition of persons. — VII. Responsibility
for violation of guarantees. Incorporation of this title in the
Civil Code.

ARTICLE 10,
The anthorities of this Repubhc are established in
order to protect all persons residing in Colombia in
their lives, honor and property, and to secure the
mutual observance of natural rights, preventing and
punishing crimes.

ARTICLE 20l

Private persons are not answerable to the authori-
ties except for Eolations of the Constitution or the
laws. Public officers are answerable in the same man-
ner, and also for exceeding their powers and for failing
to execute them.

ARTICLE 21.

In case of a manifest violation of any constitutiowal
provision to the injury of any person, the superior
order shall not exempt from responsibility the agent
who may execute it.

The military in actual service shall not be held to
this responsibility. AVith respect to them, the superior
who gives the order shall be alone responsible^



— 9 —

ARTICLE 22.

There sliall be no slaves in Colombia.
Any person beino; a slave who shall enter tlie
territory of the Republic, shall be free.

ARTICLE 23.

Xo one shall be molested in his person or family,
nor imprisoned, nor arrested, nor shall his domicile
be searched unless upon a written warrant from com-
petent authority, issued with all legal formalities and
for an offense previously deiined by law.
ARTICLE 2-i.

He who is taken in thcN actual commission of an
offence, nuiy be arrested and carried before the judge by
any person. If the police pursue him and he take re-
fuge in his own dwelling, they may enter therein
for the purpose of apprehending him ; and if he seek
asylum in the house of another person, requisition for
him should be previously made of the owner or tenant
thereof.

ARTICLE 25.
Ko person sliall be compelled to testify in criminal
or police proceedings against himself or against his
relations within the fourth degree of consanguinity or
the second degree of affinity.

ARTICLE 26.

Ko person shall be prosecuted except in conformity
with laws enacted prior to the commission of the offen-
se with which he is charged, before a competent tribu-
nal, and under all the forms of law in each case pro-
vided.

In all criminal matters the accused shall enjoy the
benefit of the laws that most leniently affect the
charge against him, although enacted after the com-
mission of the offense.

ARTICLE 27.
Punishments may be inflicted witliout previous
trial and without a strict observance of the forms of



— 10 —

law, notwitlisfcanding tlie preceding provision, by tlic
following officers.

1. By tliose officers exercising authority or juris-
diction wlio have the power to punish with fine or
imprisonment for injury or disrespect towards them
in the discharge of their official duties ;

2. By military chiefs, who can inflict instant
punishment in order to subdue a military insubordi-
nation or mutiny, or to maintain discipline in presence
of the enemy ;

3. Captains of boats, who, not being in port, can
exercise the same authority in order to prevent the
<3ommission of crime on board.

ARTICLE 28.

Even in time of war, no person shall be punished
■ex 2)0st facto, but only according to a law, order, or
decree in which the act shall have been previously
prohibited, and the punishment prescribed for its com-
mission.

This provision shall not prevent that even in time
of peace, there being serious reasons to fear a distur-
bance of public order, such persons may be arrested
and retained, upon the order of the Government and
the previous judgment of the Ministers, against whom
are serious suspicions that they have attempted to
<;onimit a crime against the public peace,

ARTICLE 29.

Tlie Legislature shall only prescribe death as a
punishment for the gravest offenses, the following
crimes, juridically proven, to wit : treason to one's
country in a foreign war, parricide, assassination, arson,
assault in a gang of malfactors, piracy, and certain mi-
litary crimes deiined by the military laws.

At no time shall the death penalty be inflicted
except as a punishment for oJfenses embraced in this
article-



— 11 —

ARTICLE 30.

There shall be no death penalty for political offen-
ses. The law shall define them.

ARTICLE 31.

Kights acqnired bj natural and artificial persons un-
der a just title and according to the civil law shall not
be disavowed nor violated by laws posteriorly enacted.
When in the application of a law enacted for the pu-
blic welfare there should result a conflict between pri-
vate rights and a recognized necessity for the same
law, private interests shall yield to public interests. But
for all expropriations that may have been compelled
there shall be required full indemnity in accordance
with the following article.

AKTICLE 32.

In time of peace no person shall be deprived of
his property in whole or in part, except as a punish-
ment, or judicial compulsion, or indemnity, or general
contribution, in accordance with law.

For grave reasons of public utility, to be defined
by the Legislature, forcible alienation of property
may take place, by means of a judicial mandate, and
the owner of the property shall be indemnified for its
value before the expropriation is confirmed.

ARTICLE 33.

In case of war and solely for the purpose of efliec-
ting the restoration of public order, the necessity for
expropriation may be decreed by authorities not invested
with judicial poAver and without previous indemniza-
tion.

In the above expressed case immovable property
can only be temporarily occupied, either to meet the ne-
cessities of the war,or to provide for it with the revenues
of the occupied property, as a pecuniary penalty im-
posed upon the owners according to the laws.

The Xation shall always be responsible for the ex-
propriations made by the Governament or its agents.



~ 12 —

ARTICLE 3i.

Tlie punishment of confiscation sliall not be inflicted.

AKTICLE 35.

Inventions and literary compositions sliall be pro-
tected like movable property during the life time of
the author and for eighty years there after, by means
of formalities prescribed by law.

This same guaranty is offered to the owners of
Avorks published in countries where the Spanish lan-
guage is spoken, provided that the respective coun-
tries reciprocate the ]irovision in their legislation
without the necessity of their declaring it throngh in-
tei'national treaties.

AKTICLE 36.

The purpose of donations inter vivos or by testa-
ment made in conformity with law and for objects of
charity or public education, shall not be diveited nor
modified by the Legislature.

ARTICLE 37.
In Colombia there shall not be real estate that
may not be freely transferred, nor shall there be any
irredeemable obligations.

ARTICLE 38,

The Roman Catholic Apostolic Religion shall be
that of the Nation. The Public authorities shall pro-
tect it and cause it to be respected as an essential ele-
ment of social order. It is nnderstood that the Catho-
lic church is not and shall not be an established church,
and it shall preserve its independence.

ARTICLE 39.

No person shall be molested on account of his
religions opinions, nor compelled b}^ the authorities
to profess tenets nor to observe practices contrary to
liis convictions.



-^ 13 —

ARTICLE 40.

The exercise of all forms of worsliip, not contrary
to christian morals nor to the laws, is permitted.

All acts contrar}' to christian morals or subversive
of public order that may be performed upon the
occasion of, or as a pretext for, the exercise of reli-
gious worship, shall be subject to punishment by law.

ARTICLE 41.

Public Education shall be organized and directed
in accordance with the Catholic Religion.

Primary instrucction paid for out of the public
funds shall be gratuitous and not compulsory.

ARTICLE 42.

The press shall be free in time of peace : but it
shall be responsible, under the laws, for injuries to
personal honor or for disturbances of social order or
public tranquility.

No periodical publication shall receive any pecu-
niary aid from other Governments or from foreign
Companies, without the permission of this Government.

ARTICLE 43.

All correspondence confided to telegraph companies
and post-offices shall be inviolable. Letters and pri-
vate papers shall not be intercepted nor examined,
except by authority, under the order of a competent
officer in sucii cases and with such formalities as may
be determined by law, and for the sole purpose of pro-
curing testimony in judicial investigations. The circu-
lation of newspapers through the post-offices may be
taxed, but shall never be prohibited in time of peace.

ARTICLE 44.

Any person may pursue any honest trade or occu-
pation without the necessity of a membcrfchip with
any guild or other association.

The authorities shall investigate all industries and



— 14 —

professions, in tlieir relation to morals, safety and
public health.

The law may exact proofs of competency for the
practice of the medical profession and its several
branches.

ARTICLE 45.

All persons shall have the right to present res-
pectful petitions to the authorities, whethei- for reasons
of public or private interests, or for the purpose of
obtaining prompt action.

ARTICLE 46.

All classes of persons may meet in peaceable assem-
blies. The authorities may disperse all assemblies
that degenerate in disorder or tumult, or that obstruct
the public roads.

ARTICLE 47.

The formation of public or private companies or
associations that are not contrary to morality or legal
order, shall be permitted.

All popular political organizations of a permanent
character are forbidden.

All religious associations, in order that they may
enjoy the protection of the laws, shall present to the
civil authorities their authorization issued by their
respective ecclesiastical superiors.

ARTICLE 48.

. The government alone shall import, manufacture
and own arms and munitions of war.

No person shall be permitted to carry arms in
tovvns without permission from the authorities. This
]iermission shall in no case be given to persons atten-
ding political meetings, or elections, or sessions of
as-semblies or public corporations, whether they parti-
cipate therein or arc present as spectators only.

ARTICLE 49.

Legitimate and public corporations shall be recog-
nized as artificial persons, and may execute, in virtue



— Id —

thereof, all civil acts and enjoy all tlie guaranties-
assured by this title, under such general liinitation&
as may be imposed by the laws for reasons of the com-
mon good.

ARTICLE 50.
The laws shall determine tlie civil status of all
persons, and shall prescribe their respective rights and
obligations.

ARTICLE 51.

Tlie laws shall determine the responsibility to be
incurred by public ofScers of all classes, who invade
the rights guarantied by this Title.

ARTICLE 52.

The provisions contained in the present title shall
be incorporated in the Civil Code as a preliminary
Title, and shall not be altered unless by an act amen-
ding the ConstitutioD.

TITT.E IV.

OF THE RELATIONS BETWEEN CHURCH AND STATE.

Abstract; — General rights of the Church. — Incompatibility
between Ecclesiastical and Civil functions. — Exemptions.—
Authori/iation of the Government to celebrate conventions
with the Holy See.

ARTICLE 53.

Tlie Catholic Church shall have power to adminis-
ter freely in Colombia its interior affairs and to exer-
cise acts of spiritual authority and of ecclesiastical ju-
risdiction without authorization from the civil power ;
andy as an artificial person represented in each Diocese
by its respective legitimate Prelate, shall have the
right to perform civil acts in virtue of riglits recogni-
zed by the present Constitution.

ARTICLE 54.
Priestly functions are incompatible with those of
public political office. Catholic priests may, neverthe-



— IG —

less, be employed in works of public Education or
Charity.

ARTICLE 55.

Edifices intended for catholic worship, seminaries
for religious instruction, and the residence of Bishops
and parish priests, shall not be taxed for contributions
nor occupied for other purpose than that for which
they were destined.

ARTICLE 50,
The Government shall have power to negotiate
agreements with the Holy Apostolic See with a view
to the adjustment of pending questions, and to define
and establish the i-e!ations between the civil and
ecclesiastical powers.

TITLE V.

OF NATIONAL POWERS AND THE PUBLIC SERVICE,

Abstract :— Limitation of powers. — Legislative power.— The
Executive.— The Judiciary. — General rules regarding the
public service.

ARTICLE 57.

All public powers shall be limited, and they shall
independently exercise their respective functions.

ARTICLE 58.

The law-making power shall be vested in Congress.
The Congress shall be composed of a Senate and a
House of Representatives.

ARTICLE 50.

The President of the Republic is the Chief of the
Executive power, and he shall exercise it with the
indispensable cooperation of the Ministers. The Presi-
dent and the Ministers, and in any particular case, the
President together with the Minister specially charged
therewith, shall constitute the Government.



— 17 —

ARTICLE GO.

The Judicial power shall be exercised bj a Supre-
me Court, by Superior District Tribunals and by such
other Tribunals and inferior Courts as may be esta-
blished by laAV.

The Senate shall exercise certain judicial povrcrs.

ARTICLE 01.

No person or corporation, shall, in time of peace,
exercise at the same time political or civil and judi-
cial or military authority.

ARTICLE 62.

The law shall determine all eases in which arises in-
compatibility of functions ; the cases relating to the res-
ponsibility of public officers and the manner of making
iteifective; the qnalilications and necessary antece-
dents requisite for the exercise of certain cnijilo}'-
ments, in cases not provided for by the Constitution ;
the condition of promotion and retirement on pension ;
and the series or class of civil or military services
that shall be entitled to pensions from the public Trea-
sury,

ARTICLE Q3.

There shall be no office in Colombia whose duties
are not defined by law or regulation.

ARTICLE G4.

No person shall receive two salaries from the public
Treasury, except in special cases determined by law.

ARTICLE G5.

Ko public officer shall enter u])on the dischargo
of his office until he shall have sworn to sn:3i;ii;i and
defend the Constitution, and to perform tho duties
of his ofiice.

ARTICLE CO.

No Colombian who is in the service of Colombia
shall, "without the permission of liisGovcrnmeiiL receive

2



— 18' —

from any foreign Government any oflSce or gift, imder
penalty of forfeiting his employment.

ARTICLE 67.

Xo Colombian shall receive from a foreign Govern-
ment any employment or cominission near that of
Colombia, withont having previously obtained the-
necessary authorization from the latter,

TITLE VI.

OP TBTE ASSEMBIilXG AND Fn2y'CTIONS OP CONGRESS.

Abstract: — I. Time, pla^e and duration of the ordinary mee-
lings of the Legislature.— Formalities necessary for its ope-
niug, working and closings. — Extraordinary sessions. — Remo-
■vfals of Congress. — Meeting of tlie two Houses of Congress. —
Ililegal assemblages. — II. Functions of Congress. — Limita-
tions of Legislative Power.

ABTIOLE 68,

The two Legislative Houses shall m^^et in ordinary
session, by virtue of law, every two years, on the 20*''
day of July in the Capital of the Republic.

The ordinary sessions shall continue for one hun-
dred and twentj days, after which the Grovernment
may declare the Houses adjourned.

ARTICLE 69.

The two Houses sliall be opened and closed pu-
blicly and at the same time.

ARTICLE TO.

The two Houses shall not open their sessions, nor
deliberate, with less tlian one-third of their members.

The President of the Republic in person, or
through his Ministers, shall open and close the two
Jlonscs.

This ceremony is not essential to the legal exer-
cise of Congressional functions.

AErricLE Tl.
When on the arrival of the day for the assembling
of Congress, it is found that the requisite quoium U



— 19 —

not present, tlie members present, sitting in provisio-


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