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Advances, setbacks noted in battle against impunity

(IAPA/IFEX) - Miami (February 25, 2010) - The Inter American Press Association (IAPA) today recognized progress during 2009 in the battle against the impunity surrounding the murder of journalists in Colombia, noting that five perpetrators of three murders committed between 2001 and 2007 have been convicted.

At the same time, the organization expressed concern that in 16 years, there have been only 24 convictions in 15 of 29 murders believed to be linked to the victims' work as journalists. Only one of the 24 convictions was of a mastermind.

IAPA President Alejandro Aguirre welcomed on the one hand "the efforts in Colombia in the last year to bring those who murdered journalists to justice" but regretted that "despite the authorities' readiness to see that these crimes do not go unpunished few results have been seen."

Aguirre, managing editor of the Miami, Florida, Spanish-language newspaper "Diario Las Américas," stressed that "it is important the keep up the 2009 pace in solving other cases so as to demonstrate that it is necessary, possible and effective for justice to be done."

A study by the IAPA's Rapid Response Unit (RRU) in Colombia analyzed the status of legal proceedings in 59 cases of murders carried out because of the victims' profession and found that 16 have been shelved, suspended or are being handled by prosecutors throughout the country. The review also noted that investigations into26 murders committed years ago are still in the preliminary inquiry stage, thus delaying justice.

The study revealed that of the 131 murders of journalists committed between 1993 and 2009, only 59 were thought to be linked to the victims' work, while in 22 cases the causes have not been determined and 50 others are believed to be unrelated to the victims' professional activities.

A significant factor in the battle against impunity is that 10 cases are in the process of being solved based on confessions made by AUC paramilitaries under terms of the Justice and Peace Law, which pardons those who provide information about journalists' murders.

Read the study on legal proceedings in Colombia updated to 2009.
iapa_colombia_english.pdf (189 KB)

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