Colombian journalist Jineth Bedoya denounces re-victimization in trial for her kidnapping, torture and sexual assault

Colombian journalist Jineth Bedoya Lima has testified 11 times before the authorities in her country about the crimes against her, including kidnapping, torture and sexual assault, in May 2000.

However, for the country’s justice system “it appears to not be sufficient,” as the Foundation for Press Freedom (FLIP for its acronym in Spanish) recently affirmed. Bedoya Lima is being compelled to appear before a court where she will not only recount the facts, but will have to face her alleged attackers.

“In an event that neither my family, my friends nor I can understand, the justice of this country is forcing me to be revictimized, and the Superior Court of Bogota has forced me to recount, on March 1, my rape for the twelfth time,” the journalist said in a video in which she invited the Colombian people to accompany her on this day.

“This not only happens to me, it happens to many women who like me have been victims. And what I am asking you is to please not leave me alone, to accompany me that day,” added Bedoya, whose request is that those who can go to the hearing do so, and those who are not in the city to accompany her on social networks using the hashtag #Noeshoradecallar (It’s not time to shut up).

Bedoya Lima was kidnapped, tortured and raped while completing a report at the Modelo prison in Bogota on May 25, 2000.

In the nearly 17 years for this case, her investigations as a journalist as well as investigations by the prosecutor’s office have indicated that at least 27 people could be involved in the crime, according to what Bedoya Lima told the Knight Center in an October 2016 interview.

However, only three people have been brought to trial, accused of being material authors of the crime. There has been no mention of intellectual authors.

Of these three people, two former paramilitaries were convicted in 2016: Mario Jaimes Mejía, alias ‘Panadero,’ and Alejandro Cárdenas Orozco, alias ‘J.J.,’ after both accepted charges against them.

However, Cárdenas Orozco is still on trial because he did not accept charges of sexual violence. Joining him is Jesús Emiro Pereira who is accused of the three crimes, according to FLIP.

It is precisely within the framework of this trial that Bedoya Lima will again testify in front of her alleged attackers.

“The prosecutor who was aware of the case requested to hear Jineth’s testimony during trial, ignoring beforehand the journalist’s refusal to be exposed in this way, as well as national and international standards that protect women victims of sexual violence,” FLIP said in a statement.

The judge on the case accepted the prosecution’s request, which was also made by the defense of the former paramilitaries. Although FLIP challenged this decision, the Superior Court of Bogotá confirmed it.

In her video, Bedoya Lima said she will be at the trial to set a precedent and thus prevent other women from being revictimized in their quest for justice

“If they are forcing me to suffer this torture, it has to serve for something. And that something is that the justice of this country never seat a woman who has been raped in front of her victimizers in a judicial setting,” Bedoya Lima said in the video.

FLIP and other organizations like IFEX and the Colombian Federation of Journalists (Fecolper) have expressed their support for the journalist. Through independent statements, they have demanded that authorities proceed positively “towards the acknowledgement of the truth and the condemnation of all material and intellectual perpetrators involved, including all officials and former state officials.”

“The Colombian justice system again failed Jineth and victims of sexual violence,” FLIP said. “In 17 years of investigations, several pieces of evidence have been misplaced, fundamental testimony has been made belatedly, and in general, the absence of truth has enveloped the case. In addition to all this, now they force the journalist to repeat what is already on the record. In this way impunity is perpetuated and the search for truth is harmed, and the journalist and freedom of the press are directly affected.”

Bedoya Lima’s case is also before the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, which FLIP asked to make a substantive statement regarding the investigation, meaning, to decide whether it should reach the Inter-American Court of Human Rights.

Note from the editor: This story was originally published by the Knight Center’s blog Journalism in the Americas, the predecessor of LatAm Journalism Review.