Inter-American Court to hear case of Colombian journalist whose murder remains unpunished 19 years after the fact

The case of Colombian journalist Nelson Carvajal Carvajal, who was assassinated on April 16, 1998, will be reviewed by the Inter-American Court of Human Rights (IACHR) on Aug. 22 and 23 during a public hearing in Costa Rica, according to a press release from the organization.

In the framework of the 119th regular session, the Inter-American Court will review the case of Carvajal Carvajal –who was murdered for reasons allegedly related to the exercise of his profession– and accusations of the lack of a serious, diligent and timely investigation into what happened.

Likewise, the statement said, it will look at alleged grave threats and harassment of the journalist's relatives that led to their departure from Colombia because of a lack of protection.

The 37-year-old journalist died in the municipality of Pitalito after being shot seven times by a hitman as he left Los Pinos School where he was a teacher.

According to the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR), in the detail of the case brought before the Court, there is sufficient evidence to conclude that Carvajal's murder was committed to silence his work as a journalist since he disclosed illegal acts allegedly committed under the protection of local authorities. The IACHR also pointed out that there would be indications about the alleged involvement of state agents in the crime that were not thoroughly investigated.

Carvajal was director of the news program Momento Regional and of the radio magazines Mirador de la Semana, Amanecer en el Campo and Tribuna Médica of Emisora Radio Sur, in the municipality of Pitalito, department of Huila, Colombia.

Last July, the Inter American Press Association (IAPA) said in a release that it will be the legal representative in the case along with the Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights organization, in the public hearing before the Inter American Court which will be held in San José, Costa Rica.

The IAPA began an investigation into the murder of Carvajal in 2002 through its Rapid Response Unit in Colombia. That same year, the case was analyzed by the IACHR, which found the Colombian State responsible for violating the American Convention on Human Rights to the detriment of Carvajal and his family, referring the case to the Inter-American Court in 2015, according to the IAPA.

According to the IAPA, the journalist's case was seen by four different prosecutors, without finding anyone responsible. The identities of more than 20 people witnesses were revealed although they gave testimony under the now abolished concept of keeping witnesses identities a secret.

Carvajal was a known critic of the political management of his municipality. In his programs, he denounced the corruption of the local political class and its alleged links with armed groups, according to the Foundation for Press Freedom (FLIP).

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.

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