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Conditions for recognition and enforcement

Enforceable judgments

Which types of judgment (eg, monetary judgments, mandatory or prohibitory orders) are enforceable in your jurisdiction and which (if any) are explicitly excluded from recognition and enforcement (eg, default judgments, judgments granting punitive damages)?

Exequaturs may be requested in relation to foreign judgments and equivalent decisions (decisions on the merits of a case). Further, in January 1999 the Supreme Court of Justice expressly stated that in order for a foreign judgment to be eligible for exequatur, it must be final and binding. For example, a decision issued by a foreign judge on an interim or precautionary measure will not be considered final and, therefore, will not be subject to an exequatur procedure in Colombia.

No type of judgment is explicitly denied enforcement in Colombia. However, specific performance – excluding the signing of documents – is not enforceable as a remedy under Colombian law (ie, the obligee will not be held in contempt of court for failing to perform under a judgment requiring specific performance). The creditor may then request damages in lieu of such performance.

How are foreign judgments subject to appeal treated?

If a foreign judgment is not final and binding in its local jurisdiction (ie, the parties may file a motion or recourse against it, including an appeal), it will not be recognised or enforced in Colombia.

Formal requirements

What are the formal and documentary requirements for recognition and enforcement of foreign judgments?

When filing for the exequatur of a foreign judgment, the party that seeks recognition must provide:

  • a certified copy of the foreign judgment, either through a legalisation procedure or with the apostille; and
  • a translation of the foreign judgment if it is not in Spanish.

Colombia is party to the Hague Convention Abolishing the Requirement of Legalisation for Foreign Public Documents 1961.

Substantive requirements

What substantive requirements (if any) apply to the recognition and enforcement of foreign judgments? Are enforcing courts in your jurisdiction permitted to review the foreign judgment on the merits?

The exequatur procedure does not relate to the merits of a case. The court’s review is based solely on formal grounds. However, the defendant in an exequatur proceeding may allege that the foreign judgment breaches Colombian public policy as a ground to resist recognition.

Limitation period

What is the limitation period for enforcement of a foreign judgment?

Colombian law does not expressly state a limitation period for enforcement of a foreign judgment. If the judgment is no longer enforceable under the law pursuant to which it was made, then the exequatur will be denied.

However, the Civil Code establishes a five-year limitation period for collection actions. This limitation period may apply to foreign judgments when filing for enforcement.

Grounds for refusal

On what grounds can recognition and enforcement be refused?

A foreign judgment will be refused exequatur if it does not comply with the following requirements set forth in the General Code of Procedure:

  • The judgment does not relate to real property rights located in Colombia at the time of filing the suit.
  • The judgment does not contravene Colombian public policy law or regulations.
  • The judgment is final and is not subject to appeal in accordance with the applicable foreign laws.
  • The judgment does not relate to a matter on which the Colombian courts have exclusive jurisdiction.
  • The judgment does not refer to an issue pending decision or already decided by the Colombian courts.
  • The judgment has been obtained in compliance with the applicable foreign laws relating to service of process on the defendant.

Service of process

To what extent does the enforcing court review the service of process in the original foreign proceedings?

As stated above, review of the service process is required for the admissibility of the exequatur suit. The Supreme Court reviews whether process was served on the defendant in accordance with the applicable foreign law.

Public policy

What public policy issues are considered in the court’s decision to grant recognition and enforcement? Is there any notable case law in this regard?

The Supreme Court will not grant recognition of a foreign judgment that contravenes Colombia’s public policy. The Constitution enshrines a right to due process, which encompasses the right to:

  • present one’s case;
  • submit evidence; and
  • have access to the evidence produced against oneself.

A breach of these basic procedural protections may result in the denial of recognition. The constitutional right to equal protection, as well as human and fundamental constitutional rights, will prevail over a foreign judgment that is incompatible with such guarantees and enforcement will likely be denied. Findings in the foreign judgment that relate to waivable rights of the defendant are less likely to raise public-policy objections.

Jurisdiction

What is the extent of the enforcing court’s power to review the personal and subject-matter jurisdiction of the foreign court that issued the judgment?

No Supreme Court of Justice decision is known to have denied recognition based on a finding of lack of jurisdiction of the foreign court. However, if a case arises where there is a manifestly obvious lack of jurisdiction of the foreign court, the Supreme Court may deny the exequatur on grounds such as violation of the service of process. Further, recognition would be denied where the Colombian courts have exclusive or concurrent jurisdiction and a proceeding is ongoing.

Concurrent proceedings and conflicting judgments

How do the courts in your jurisdiction address applications for recognition and enforcement where there are concurrent proceedings (foreign or domestic) or conflicting judgments involving the same parties/dispute?

If the foreign judgment refers to an issue pending decision by the Colombian courts or an issue that has already been decided by the Colombian courts, the Supreme Court of Justice will dismiss the exequatur suit.

No case is known to have involved conflicting foreign judgments, one or both of which were submitted for recognition; however, the Supreme Court of Justice would likely deny the exequatur of a foreign judgment that resolves an issue previously resolved in a foreign judgment over which the exequatur was granted. Such conflict may also be decided through consideration of the proper jurisdiction of the courts or res judicata in regard to the first judgment that became final and binding.

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