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Court rules Colombia responsible for journalist's rape

October 19, 2021

Jineth Bedoya was kidnapped, tortured and raped by paramilitaries 21 years ago. After fighting for years, she has now finally found justice in the form of an international verdict.

Colombian journalist Jineth Bedoya poses with her campaign badge "It's not time to stay quiet"
Colombian journalist Jineth Bedoya said the court verdict was a victory over sexual violence against womenImage: picture-alliance/ZUMAPRESS/El Tiempo

The Inter-American Court of Human Rights (IACHR) has ruled that Colombia is responsible for the kidnapping, rape and torture of a female journalist by paramilitaries in 2000.

Jineth Bedoya, who worked for the South American country's El Espectador newspaper at the time of the ordeal, tweeted it was a "historic" decision for all women who suffer sexual violence.

What did judges say?

The court said Monday the crimes "could not have been carried out without the consent and collaboration of the [Colombian] State, or at least with its tolerance."

The court, which meets in Costa Rican capital, San Jose, said "the State was internationally responsible for the violation of the rights to judicial guarantees and protection, and equality before the law."

It added that Colombia was guilty of "failing to investigate the threats that had been received," by both Bedoya and her mother.

Inter-American Court of Human Rights Chile's President Michelle Bachelet, left, speaks as Costa Rica's President Oscar Arias, center, and Chilean Cecilia Medina, president of the Inter-American Court of Human Rights, look on in San Jose
The Inter-American Court of Human Rights is located in San Jose, Costa RicaImage: AP

To make up for its complicity, the four judges ordered Colombia to "punish those remaining responsible for the acts of violence."

In the long run, it asked Colombia to train public officials and security officials on the subject of violence against women, establish a center to commemorate victims and compensate Bedoya for the crimes against her.

What happened to Bedoya?

Bedoya, now 47, was a young journalist when far-right militia kidnapped her at Colombia's notorious La Modelo prison as she was about to interview paramilitaries about a weapons smuggling ring.

The militia brutally raped and tortured her for 16 hours before leaving her naked by a roadside.

Since then, Bedoya, now a reporter for the newspaper El Tiempo, and her mother had suffered "persecution, intimidation and constant threats."

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The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights referred the case to the independent court of the Organization of American States in 2019. Its decisions are definitive and have no right of appeal.

The IACHR began examining the case in March, when the Colombian state first apologized to her for its role in the crime.

What has been the reaction so far?

Bedoya tweeted that the ruling went far beyond her own particular case.

"October 18, 2021 goes down in history as the day when a struggle that began with an individual crime has led to the vindication of the rights of thousands of women who have been victims of sexual violence and of women journalists who leave a part of their lives in their work," she said.

Passersby watch the portraits that are part of a photographic exhibition in tribute to women victims of feminicide, in the La Alpujarra square, in Medellin, Colombia
Portraits of women killed in Colombia testifty to the constant violence against womenImage: Luis Eduardo Noriega/Agencia EFE/imago images

Bedoya received the UNESCO World Press Freedom Prize in 2020.

Colombian President Ivan Duque tweeted that his country "fully accepts the decision," adding, "I will always condemn any violent act against women and journalists."

The Press Freedom Foundation (FLIP) said Monday's "dignified" decision was a victory for a woman who "has tirelessly sought justice for more than 20 years."

It was echoed by the Committee to Protect Journalists, which called it "a historic acknowledgment of the deadly dangers that Colombia's female journalists face."

The ruling comes as Colombia tries to deal with a troubled past where thousands were killed and abused during a long and bloody war between the state and paramilitaries.

jc/rt (AFP, dpa)