Colombia's Supreme Court confirmed that two former paramilitary leaders will be excluded from benefits offered under the Justice and Peace Law because they did not tell the truth in the investigation into the abduction, torture and rape of journalist Jineth Bedoya Lima that occurred 17 years ago, El Tiempo reported.
The recent decision of the Supreme Court upheld the August 2016 decision of the Justice and Peace Chamber of the Superior Court of Bogotá, which decided to exclude Mario Jaimes Mejía, alias 'El Panadero', and Alejandro Cárdenas Orozco, alias 'JJ', considering that, as El Espectador reported at the time, "they evidently lied when they related their participation and knowledge in the events surrounding the plan to abduct the journalist."
The Justice and Peace Law, or Law 275 of 2005, was approved within the framework of the peace process between the Government and the paramilitary group Autodefensas Unidas de Colombia (AUC). Some of the benefits for those who are covered under this law is the possibility of paying an alternative sentence of eight years in prison and not the time they would receive under the normal justice system.
In its decision on Aug. 9, the Supreme Court stated that anyone who wants to be a beneficiary of alternative sentences must "always expose the truth, not only about the facts in which he took part as an author or participant, but also about those that he had knowledge of during the exercise of his activity outside the law,” according to newspaper El Tiempo.
Bedoya Lima was abducted, tortured and raped while she was reporting at Modelo jail in Bogotá on May 25, 2000, where she was supposed to interview a former paramilitary leader.
In their first statements to the court, both Jaimes Mejía and Cárdenas Orozco assured that they had not had any involvement in the crimes committed against the journalist. However, they later changed their version and accepted some charges.
Once the decision of the Supreme Court was reported, Bedoya wrote on her Twitter account: "Thank you from the heart for your messages and support. Now, to continue! We have much to do and dream. #NoEsHoraDeCallar (It’s not time to be quiet) #SeValeSerFeliz (It’s worth it to be happy)".
On March 18, 2016, Jaimes Mejía was sentenced to 28 years in prison after accepting charges of simple abduction, torture and violent sexual assault against Bedoya Lima. During the hearing, he also asked for forgiveness for his actions.
Cárdenas Orozco became the first to be convicted in this case in February 2016 when he was sentenced to 11 years and 5 months in prison for the crimes of simple abduction and torture. The former paramilitary member did not accept the charge of violent sexual assault, the reason why he continues with the trial and could receive a new sentence, according to El Tiempo.
In a conversation with the Knight Center in October 2016, Bedoya Lima said that at least 27 people have been implicated in the crime, but that only three people have been brought to court and two of them sentenced.
The journalist also was frustrated because the people before the court are related to the material authorship of the crime, but no progress has been made in prosecuting the intellectual authors that presumably include agents of the State.
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.