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Case of murdered journalist in Colombia moves to Inter-American Court of Human Rights

This statement was originally published on sipiapa.org on 29 October 2015.

The Inter American Press Association (IAPA) and Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights welcomed the decision of the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) to submit the case of Nelson Carvajal Carvajal to the Inter-American Court of Human Rights as a step of great importance, and expressed their confidence that justice will finally be done in the case of the Colombian journalist's 1998 murder.

IAPA President Pierre Manigault, president of the Charleston, South Carolina, newspaper The Post & Courier, declared, “Although there is still a hard path to take before the Inter-American Court we are confident that justice will be done and important precedents will be set to deal with other murder cases that continue to go unpunished in the Americas.”

When he was killed on April 16, 1998 Carvajal was the director of the Noticiero Momento Regional newscast and broadcast journals Mirador de la Semana, Amanecer en el Campo and Tribuna Médica of RCN Radio's Radio Sur in Pitalito municipality, Huila province. He was also a teacher at Los Pinos School.

“Hand in hand with freedom of expression is the power to be heard,” said Kerry Kennedy, President of Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights. “We are honored to take this case to the Inter-American Court on behalf of Nelson Carvajal and the countless other journalists whose voices have been senselessly silenced by violence.”

The IAPA, together with the Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights and the Carvajal family, had formally requested that the IACHR submit the case to the Inter-American Court after 17 years since the murder has not been solved by the Colombian government. Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights, based in Washington, DC, joined the case in August of this year and the legal team of the RFK Partners for Human Rights will lead the litigation of the case before the Inter-American Court.

“Nearly 500 journalists have been murdered in the Americas in the last 28 years, and one-quarter of these are Colombians,” said Santiago A. Canton, Executive Director of RFK Partners for Human Rights. “The Carvajal case will serve as an important marker in the Inter-American Human Rights System to strengthen the jurisprudence on the right to freedom of expression and demonstrate that these crimes will not remain in impunity.”

The IAPA's Rapid Response Unit in Colombia in 2002 had carried out an in-depth investigation into the murder that revealed irregularities in the official inquiries and lack of progress http://bit.ly/1RCU7BM. As a result, IAPA decided to present the case to the IACHR on June 21, 2002.

The IAPA has held meetings with the Colombian government between 2005 and 2009 with the objective of reaching an amicable solution that would contemplate continuation of the investigation, review of the case and punishment of those responsible. The process was suspended by the IAPA due to the lack of progress in seeking to solve the crime.

The IAPA has since the case was submitted to the IACHR 11 missions to Colombia, among them one in February this year in which the organization's delegation met with Carvajal family members and with those of Guillermo Cano, Orlando Sierra and Álvaro Gómez Hurtado, journalists also murdered in the South American country.

From the outset the Carvajal family has collaborated with the Colombian government, providing evidence and supporting the judiciary in the investigation, which led to several members of the family being threatened and being forced to leave the country.

“While the Colombian government has shown its commitment to solve crimes against journalists what is urgent is to carry out more action aimed at solving these crimes so as to combat impunity, prevent them from coming to a standstill or becoming subject to statute of limitations”, concluded the IAPA president, in reference to the Carvajal case which will become subject to such statute in 2018.

The IAPA work in this and other cases of the murder of journalists in the Americas was carried out as part of the Anti-Impunity Project, sponsored since 1995 by the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation.

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