Torture, sexual abuse of Colombian journalist declared crimes against humanity

The Colombian Attorney General declared the kidnapping and torture of journalist Jineth Bedoya Lima by the Centauros block of the United Self-Defense Forces of Colombia paramilitary group in 2000 as crimes against humanity, reported the newspaper El Tiempo.

The prosecutor declared the case imprescriptible, recognizing that "the attacks on journalists were a recurring war tactic designed to silence the voice of those that dared to expose the outrages and violations of paramilitarism to the public," according to the newspaper El Espectador.

Bedoya celebrated the decision not to close the case, reported the newspaper La Patria. "The crimes committed against my person are part of a systematic persecution, not only against me but all journalists in Colombia," she told the newspaper.

In 2000, Bedoya, now deputy court editor for the newspaper El Tiempo, was investigating the deaths of 26 prisoners in the Modelo prison in the capital, Bogotá, for the newspaper El Espectador, according to the newspaper El Heraldo. The journalist was summoned by the ex-paramilitary Mario Jaimes Mejía, known as "the Baker," for a supposed interview on May 25, 2000, when Bedoya was kidnapped at the prison's entrance and held for 16 hours during which she was beaten and sexually abused. Afterwards, her attackers left her near the city of Villavicencio, in central Colombia, reported El Heraldo.

In the same decision, the prosecutor issued a measure to ensure appearance in court for three paramilitary leaders the would have participated in Bedoya's kidnapping and attack: Mario Jaimes Mejía, Alejandro Cárdenas, and Jesús Emiro Pereira. All three are currently in prison for other crimes and will be charged with aggravated kidnapping, torture of a protected person, and violent sexual assault.

In 2011, Bedoya filed a claim against the Colombian government at the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights for failing to fully investigate the kidnapping and sexual assault she suffered in 2000.

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.