Every day of impunity takes something away from us as victims and it is killing us slowly.Jineth Bedoya Lima
On 29 January 2019, an important decision was made by the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (CIDH) in the fights against the almost 100% impunity that exists for conflict-related sexual violence in Colombia. Jineth Bedoya Lima, a courageous Colombian Journalist, who was abducted, tortured and raped in 2000 in an effort to silence her journalistic work on the Colombian conflict, successfully presented sufficient evidence for a case to be opened in the Inter-American Court of Human Rights against the Colombian State.
Jineth Bedoya, who has campaigned against the high levels of impunity for sexual violence in Colombia since her attack, together with the support of the FLIP (Fundación para la Libertad de Prensa – Freedom of the Press Foundation) and the Centre for Justice and International Law (CEJIL), took her case to the Inter-American Commission. On 29 January 2019, the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (CIDH) adopted a “Merits Report” on Jineth Bedoya Lima’s case. The report assessed the complaints regarding impunity for the human rights violations Jineth Bedoya suffered when she was kidnapped, tortured and raped in 2000. The merits report concludes the analysis of the case by the Inter-American Commission and provides the basis for case against Colombia in front of the Inter-American Court of Human Rights in San José, Costa Rica.
In May 2000, the journalist Jineth Bedoya was kidnapped outside the main gates of Bogota’s La Modelo prison, where she was going to interview one of the prisoners, a paramilitary leader known as ‘El Panadero’ (‘The Baker’). She was held by her captors for more than 16 hours and was drugged, tortured and raped by three men. Despite the fear that this generated and the threats against her, she continued working as a journalist in the country.
Pursuing justice is one of the most difficult tasks that one can assume in life, because the price you have to pay is life itself. Today we made another significant step in this pursuit.Jineth Bedoya Lima
This is an important case for women, for journalists and for those in Colombia whose cases of rape in conflict remain in impunity. For the first time the Inter-American Court will hear a case of a female journalist who has been tortured and raped in context of armed conflict. The case has the potential to address the pervasive dynamics of impunity in cases of violence against women in general, as well as de facto restrictions to freedom of the press in Colombia.
This is a major step forward in Jineth Bedoya’s struggle for justice and truth. It is hoped that the Colombian State will finally comply with the decision of the Inter-American Court and guarantee Jineth Bedoya’s rights as well as fulfilling its responsibility to prevent similar cases of violence against women and address the structures of impunity for such acts of violence.
“International observation of this emblematic process will help us monitor the response of the Colombian State and address the challenges this case reveals,” says a joint statement, which was issued by FLIP and CEJIL on 29 January 2019.
In May 2000, the journalist Jineth Bedoya was kidnapped outside the main gates of Bogota’s La Modelo prison, where she was going to interview one of the prisoners, a paramilitary leader known as ‘El Panadero’ (‘The Baker’). She was held by her captors for more than 16 hours and was drugged, tortured and raped by three men. Despite the fear that this generated and the threats against her, she continued working as a journalist in the country. In August 2003, she was kidnapped again, this time by Front 44 of the FARC in Caño Jabón (Guaviare), and held for 8 days.
Her case essentially remained archived until 2011. On 24 May 2011, eleven years after her ordeal and facing continuing threats and impunity for her kidnapping, Jineth Bedoya submitted her case to the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, in order to seek justice through international mechanisms.
In 2012, the Colombian Prosecutor’s Office charged three paramilitaries for the crimes. Two of them have been sentenced so far: Mario Jaimes Mejía (‘El Panadero) and Alejandro Cárdenas Orozco (‘J.J.’). ‘El Panadero’ had invited Jineth Bedoya to the prison for an interview and ‘J.J.’ coordinated the attack on the journalist. In 2016, ‘El Panadero’ was sentenced to 28 years in prison; he apologised to Jineth Bedoya for his part in planning her kidnapping, torture and rape. ‘J.J.’ was sentenced to 11 years. However, there are more people, including the intellectual authors, who are linked with the case who have not been sentenced yet.
Jineth Bedoya campaigns tirelessly against impunity for rape and leads the campaign #NoEsHoraDeCallar to make violence against women and girls more visible in Colombia.
In the merits stage, the Inter-American Commission decides whether or not there were violations of human rights in a case. Merits Reports approved are not published immediately. When a Merits Report is approved, it is confidential, and the Commission only notifies the parties in the case (the State and the petitioner). As the merits report is not publicly accessible yet, the FLIP and the CEJIL, who represent Jineth Bedoya in the case, have published the information about the report included in this article.
ABColombia, Colombia: Women, conflict-related sexual violence and the Peace Process (November 2013)