Case of Colombian journalist Jineth Bedoya will be heard by the Inter-American Court of Human Rights

The Colombian State will be judged by the Inter-American Court of Human Rights in the case of the abduction, torture and sexual violence against journalist Jineth Bedoya Lima 19 years ago.

According to newspaper El Espectador, the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) presented the journalist’s case before the Inter-American Court on May 17 since Colombia did not comply with the recommendations they made in a January 2019 merits report.

Jineth Bedoya Lima

Jineth Bedoya Lima created the campaign "It's not time to be silent" in 2009 to fight violence against women. (Photo: Courtesy of El Tiempo)

The Colombian State asked for three months to comply with the recommendations, which was granted by the IACHR, according to the newspaper. However, after this time, Colombia again requested another extension which was denied, El Espectador added.

Now it will be the Inter-American Court that determines Colombia's responsibility for its “international obligations” regarding “women journalists in contexts of armed conflict, restrictions on press freedom and the dynamics of impunity in cases of violence against women,” according to Colombia’s Press Freedom Foundation (FLIP), an organization that has provided legal assistance to Bedoya.

“19 years waiting for this news and today I am glad to be the first victim to bring sexual violence in Colombia to an international tribunal. Today, a path of hope and justice for me and for thousands of girls and women victims of sexual violence is opened. #NoEsHoraDeCallar (It’s Not Time to Be Silent),” Bedoya wrote on her Twitter account when the decision of the IACHR was announced.

Bedoya Lima, current deputy editor of newspaper El Tiempo, was abducted at the entrance of Bogotá’s Modelo prison on May 25, 2000 while investing the deaths of 26 inmates and alleged arms trafficking inside the jail.

During her 16-hour abduction, she was tortured, beaten and sexually abused. Then she was abandoned on a road near the city of Villavicencio, in the department of Meta.

For ten years, her case remained in total impunity, El Espectador added. In the little more than 19 years, only three people have been sentenced.

In March 2016, Mario Jaimes Mejía, alias ‘El Panadero,’ was sentenced to 28 years in prison as co-author of the crimes of simple abduction, torture and violent sexual intrusion. In May 2019, Alejandro Cárdenas Orozco, alias 'JJ,' was sentenced to 30 years in prison for the crime of aggravated violent sexual intrusion of a protected person, and Jesús Emiro Rivera Pereira, alias 'Huevoepisca,' received 40 years for abduction, torture and violent sexual intrusion.

In addition to the long period that passed before the first advances in the case were announced, the journalist has expressed her frustration at the lack of investigation and the involvement of public officials allegedly behind the crime. As Bedoya told the Knight Center in 2016, according to her own investigations and information that the prosecutor’s office has, at least 27 people are allegedly involved in the crime against her, including agents of the State.

In 2012, the Attorney General of Colombia declared her abduction and torture a crime against humanity, which prevents it from prescribing, meaning there is no expiration date for the investigation. In 2009, Bedoya created the “It’s not time to be silent” campaign to encourage women victims of violence to report it.

In 2011, the journalist sued Colombia before the IACHR. At a 2016 hearing, she asked the entity to condemn Colombia for the violation of several of her rights.

“This decision is a significant advance in the fight that Jineth Bedoya Lima has had to wage for 19 years to access justice and truth,” the FLIP wrote in a statement upon the case’s arrival to the Court. “This will be the first opportunity in which the Inter-American Court gives a pronouncement on the situation of women journalists in contexts of armed conflict and the first in which it studies Colombia's responsibility in a case in which the focus is on sexual violence. Thus, the decision adopted by the Court will not only have effects for the specific case, but will constitute a precedent for the entire hemisphere. ”

FLIP and the Center for Justice and International Law (CEJIL), which also represents Bedoya, called on the international community to continue following the case. They also acknowledged "the constancy and courage with which Jineth has faced this process for 19 years despite revictimization by the State," the statement added.