Under pressure from human rights groups, Colombia's government is backtracking on proposed legislation that would potentially deny justice for the families of thousands of victims of extrajudicial killings at the hands of the U.S.-backed military.

President Juan Manuel Santos in 2013 introduced legislation strengthening the military justice system, a move critics said opens the door to the killings being tried in more-lenient military courts.

On Tuesday, legislation cleared a Senate committee with the objectionable language removed. Deputy Defense Minister Jorge Bedoya told the Associated Press the changes were introduced to prevent any misinterpretation.

As many as 5,000 military personnel including 22 generals are under investigation for killing civilians and trying to disguise civilian deaths as guerrillas killed in combat during the offensive against the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia.