Colombia declares 1998 murder of journalist Nelson Carvajal a crime against humanity

Twenty-one years after Nelson Carvajal Carvajal was killed, the Attorney General's Office of Colombia declared the journalist’s murder a crime against humanity.

That means that the crime cannot prescribe until those responsible are found, the sentence explained. The document says that “there is sufficient evidence to reasonably maintain that the murder of journalist Nelson Carvajal Carvajal was committed as a generalized and systematic attack, with full knowledge and will of its authors and determiners, for now unknown.”

The Inter American Press Association (IAPA), the Press Freedom Foundation (FLIP) and Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights welcomed the decision. Likewise, they requested that efforts be redoubled to find the material and intellectual authors of the murder and that they be condemned.

In a March 13, 2018 ruling, the Inter-American Court of Human Rights held the Colombian State responsible for Carvajal’s death. In that sentence, the Court ruled against the Colombian government for not guaranteeing the victim's right to freedom of expression and demanded that it apologize to family members who, for the most part, had to leave the country later due to threats.

The Court also demanded then that the Colombian authorities continue with the investigations and show results in a reasonable time. “The Court finds that the murder of Nelson Carvajal Carvajal falls within a generalized context of impunity for the killings of journalists that occurred at the time of the events in this case in Colombia,” according to the ruling.

In compliance with that judgment, a year later, the State of Colombia apologized for Carvajal’s murder at the end of March 2019, in the framework of the semiannual meeting of the IAPA that took place in Cartagena, according to newspaper El Espectador.

At that meeting, Edison Lanza, the Special Rapporteur for Freedom of Expression of the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR), said that the crime could have been solved in the first months, but it was not so, the newspaper published.

Carvajal died on April 16, 1998 after being shot seven times upon leaving a school in the municipality of Pitalito, Department of Huila, where he was a professor. Until the time of his death, Carvajal was the director of the news program Momento Regional and of the radio magazines Mirador de la Semana, Amanecer en el Campo and Tribuna Médica at the station Radio Sur, according to FLIP. The journalist reported on local corruption and money laundering from drug trafficking