President Juan Manuel Santos's government has dismissed calls to revoke the law on death penalty sentences in Colombia for child molesters and heinous crimes
President Juan Manuel Santos's government has dismissed calls to revoke the law on death penalty sentences in Colombia for child molesters and heinous crimesReuters

Colombia has ruled out introducing the death penalty for murderers and child molesters after a police force general had applied to revoke the existing law.

Rodolfo Palomino, general of Colombia's National Police Force, re-opened the debate after a fourth person, accused of murdering four children, was arrested yesterday.

The crime, which has shaken Colombia in recent days, was described as a "slaughter" by the country's president Juan Manuel Santos on Twitter.

The children, three brothers aged 10, 14 and 17, and a nephew of the family, aged four, were found dead with gunshots wound to the head earlier this month in Florencia, the capital of the southern department of Caqueta.

According to Palomino, who revealed the criminal record of one of the murder suspect, the country should consider the death penalty, especially when it comes to crimes involving minors.

One of the accused, Chávez Cuéllar, had previously been sentenced to four years in prison for the murder of a woman after raping her, Palomino confirmed.

"In these circumstances it is worth reviving the debate: whether it is or not to consider the death penalty for those who commit heinous crimes, especially those who are underage victims," Palomino told Radio Blu.

60 years in prison sufficient

However, Colombia's government and congress ruled out the appeal for the death penalty.

Interior minister Juan Fernando Cristo said that under no circumstances would he contemplate the possibility of implementing a measure of this nature, since he believed the maximum penalty of 60 years in prison established by law for such offences, is sufficient.

"Colombian legislation is very hard against this kind of crime, [but] what we need to do is apply it in a timely, severe manner, and that judicial officials and authorities in investigations work quickly and effectively," Cristo said.

Senate president José David Name added that the country is not ready legally to apply such sentences.

"Colombia will have no legal certainty to apply the death penalty. I understand the pain we have with these events, but we have to think with a cool head. Changing the constitution and not solving the problems of [our] justice [system], is not viable," he told local media.

In 2014, Colombia ranked 10th in a United Nations report on countries with the highest murder rates in the world with 30.8 homicides per 100,000 people in 2012.