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Colombian journalist Jineth Bedoya has hearing on her case at the IACHR

The following is a translation of a statement that was originally published on flip.org.co on 4 April 2016.

As part of the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights' (IACHR) 157th session, the Foundation for Press Freedom (Fundación para la libertad de prensa, FLIP) accompanied journalist Jineth Bedoya Lima to a hearing regarding her case on 5 April 2016. FLIP has called upon the IACHR to urge the Colombian government to guarantee, within the framework of judicial processes taking place in the country, that justice is served and that those responsible for the crimes against the journalist are punished.

Likewise, FLIP and the Center for Justice and International Law (CEJIL) hope that the IACHR will move forward on the case, providing a substantive declaration and referring it to the Inter-American Court on Human Rights in order for a definitive ruling to be issued. The delay in this process is linked to the Colombian government's failure to provide responses to the claims presented by both organisations before the international body since May 2015.

Fifteen years and two prison sentences

Since 25 May 2000, the date of the crimes against Bedoya Lima, two former paramilitary group members have been convicted in the case. In February 2016, Alejandro Cárdenas Orozco was sentenced to 14 years and five months in prison for the crimes of kidnapping and torture; while Mario Jaimes Mejía, aka “el Panadero”, was sentenced to 28 years and 2 months in prison for the same crimes, in addition to sexual assault.

The latter verdict is the result of more than five years of investigations into Jaimes Mejía's actions, followed by 10 months of delay leading up to the opening of the trial and, finally, the accused's confession to the charges on 2 February 2016.

Although both sentences were based on confessions, neither of the perpetrators provided further information that would clarify what happened or who else may have been involved in the crimes. This has not served to guarantee the right to full truth in the journalist's case. For this reason, the Attorney General's Office requested that Cárdenas Orozco and Jaimes Mejía be excluded from the benefits provided under Colombia's Justice and Peace Process.

A long way to go against impunity

Following on the sentencing of Cárdenas Orozco and Jaimes Mejía, the Colombian justice system's lack of diligence in the case over a 15-year span must not be forgotten. Fifteen years during which perpetrators and witnesses have died or have not been located. Faced with this situation, it is worth noting that within the criminal investigations there are still individuals that have yet to be linked to the crimes, including state officials.

FLIP has often spoken out against the many obstacles presented by the case, such as stalling of the investigations for 11 years, delays in carrying out crucial analyses, the release of Cárdenas Orozco and delays in the Jaimes Mejía's trial.

Hope in the Inter-American justice system

It is hoped that the IACHR hearing will compel the Colombian government to fulfill its duties to protect and see that justice is served in accordance with the precautionary measures granted in Bedoya's case, obliging the state to implement adequate investigative and judicial strategies that respond to the rights of victims.

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