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Jineth Bedoya and Jaime Garzón: Impunity in Bogotá, Colombia

This article was originally published on the website on 15 December 2015.

On Monday, 14 December, specialised courts in Bogotá had planned to proceed with two simultaneous hearings in cases involving crimes against journalists: the trial of the former deputy director of the Departamento Administrativo de Seguridad (Administrative Department of Security, DAS) for involvement in the assassination of Jaime Garzón, and the initiation of proceedings against former paramilitary member Mario Jaimes Mejia, alias “El Panadero”, for the kidnapping, torture and sexual assault of Jineth Bedoya. The hearings scheduled for 9:00 a.m. were postponed. Impunity in these cases is no longer surprising, but it is ironic that at the time scheduled for the hearings, Jineth Bedoya and Marisol Garzón (Jaime Garzón's sister) were in Havana attending the presentation of an accord on victims' rights and reparations as part of the Colombian peace negotiations.

A total of four postponements have now taken place in the proceedings against “El Panadero”. Eight months have passed since the court undertook the case and Jineth Bedoya has been awaiting justice for 15 years. In this most recent instance the postponement took place after the Instituto Nacional Penitenciario y Carcelario (National Penitentiary and Prison Institute, INPEC) sent notice that it would not be transporting the accused to the hearing due to budget constraints, despite being informed of the proceedings more than two months in advance. The faltering and highly delayed advances in the judicial process are of no use if the prison authorities fail to operate in a way that allows the justice system to function.

Sixteen years have passed since the assassination of Jaime Garzón, six years since former DAS deputy director José Miguel Narváez was linked to the case and four years since the trial against Narváez began. The closing arguments in the case have been underway for seven months but could not be continued because Narváez dismissed his trusted lawyer, a delaying tactic that is as old as it is effective.

The cases of Jineth Bedoya and Jaime Garzón have many elements in common, both in terms of the perpetrators as well as the time when they took place and the motives. Impunity is another aspect they share. The Colombia government is facing complaints at the international level as these two cases are before the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, and it has not been able to disengage from this process because of the impunity that prevails, among other issues.

With Jineth Bedoya and Marisol Garzón's attendance at the presentation of the victims' accord on 15 December it is important to note the incongruity of the years of impunity they have endured while at the same time being recognized for their emblematic life stories within the framework of the peace process. The Fundación para la Libertad de Prensa (Foundation for Press Freedom, FLIP), publicly acknowledges the long, and often lonely, struggle of these two women, for whom the attacks on the press and the pursuit of justice have coincided in a moment of great importance for the country.

FLIP condemns the postponement of the two hearings and calls on the judicial authorities to swiftly move the proceedings forward. Likewise, FLIP supports the judge in charge of Jineth Bedoya's case in his request for information in order to open an investigation against the INPEC to determine if the delays form part of a deliberate effort to prevent the launch of the trial.

FLIP is disappointed that, despite the important public relevance of these cases, judicial obstacles continue to persist and have become more accentuated in 2015. Finally, FLIP calls on society in general to be attentive to possible developments that could arise from the peace process in order to ensure that truth prevails, and reparations and justice are promptly and effectively carried out.

Video: Jineth Bedoya discussion with Marisol Garzón, journalist and sister of Jaime Garzón

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