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Monday, 18 October 2021 16:33

"Physical, sexual and psychological torture of Jineth Bedoya could not have been carried out without the collaboration of the State": Inter-American Court of Human Rights ruling

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October 18, 2021, Washington, D.C., Bogotá - The Inter-American Court of Human Rights (IACtHR) issued a historic ruling in the case of journalist Jineth Bedoya Lima against Colombia, in which it analyzes for the first time the use of sexual violence as a form of silencing and control against a woman journalist in the context of the Colombian armed conflict.

"October 18, 2021 goes down in history as the day that a struggle, which began with an individual crime, led to the revindication of the rights of thousands of women victims and survivors of sexual violence and women journalists who leave part of their lives in their profession" said Jineth Bedoya, journalist, victim and survivor.

In its ruling, the Court declared Colombia responsible for the violation of various rights, including the right to personal integrity, personal liberty, honor and dignity, and freedom of thought and expression of journalist Jineth Bedoya Lima, as a result of the events that occurred on May 25, 2000, when she was intercepted, kidnapped and subjected to numerous physical, sexual and verbal assaults while reporting on crimes and human rights violations committed inside the Modelo prison in Bogotá.

The Inter-American Court recognized the existence of acts of torture that had a clear connection with her journalistic activity and were intended to punish, intimidate and silence her. The Court found that the attacks against the journalist not only violated her freedom of expression at the individual level, but also had a collective impact, both on Colombian society in its right to information and on other people who practiced journalism. In relation to the threats that Jineth Bedoya has received since at least 1999, the Court ruled that due to the lack of investigation these constitute acts of torture.

In its judgment, the Court found that there was serious, precise and consistent evidence of State involvement in the acts of physical, sexual and psychological torture against the journalist. The Court determined that these acts could not have been carried out without the acquiescence and collaboration of the State, or at least with its tolerance. This is even more serious considering that Jineth was investigating crimes committed by organized crime with the intervention of state agents inside the Modelo prison.

 Due to the severe climate of impunity and the use of gender stereotypes and discrimination in the investigation of Jineth Bedoya's case for more than two decades, the Court declared Colombia's international responsibility for the violation of the rights to due process, judicial protection and equality before the law due to the lack of due diligence in the investigations.

The ruling recognizes that Colombia is currently experiencing a serious context of threats, attacks and murders against social leaders and human rights defenders, including journalists.

The Court ordered a series of reparation measures, including symbolic measures and guarantees of non-repetition to repair the damage caused to Jineth Bedoya and to society in general.

Among the reparation measures ordered by the Court, we highlight the obligation to investigate, prosecute and punish all those responsible for the crimes committed against the journalist, particularly taking into account that the Court determined that to date the masterminds and other co-perpetrators who may have participated in the kidnapping and assault of Jineth Bedoya and subsequent threats have not been determined.

 In addition, the Court ordered Colombia to carry out "a comprehensive policy for the protection of journalists, the creation of the "Investigative Center No es Hora de Callar," the design and implementation of a public system for the collection of updated data and figures on gender-based violence and on threats and violence against journalists and human rights defenders; and the creation of a fund for the prevention, protection and assistance of women journalists who are victims of gender-based violence.

The Court's judgement demonstrates the existence of the systematic use of sexual violence against women during the Colombian armed conflict and the particular risk faced by women journalists. It also demonstrates the existence of systematic and widespread impunity in relation to sexual violence during the conflict.

Jineth Bedoya has been tirelessly seeking justice for more than 20 years and has become a symbol and leader in the fight against sexual violence, particularly in relation to women journalists. This decision by the Inter-American Court is dignifying not only for Jineth but represents hope for the thousands of victims of sexual violence during the Colombian armed conflict.

The organizations representing the case in the international process are the Center for Justice and International Law (CEJIL) and the Foundation for Press Freedom (FLIP). 

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