Colombia responsible for journalist’s kidnapping, rape and torture: court

Colombia’s State was responsible for the kidnapping, rape and torture of a journalist by paramilitaries, the Inter-American Court of Human Rights (IC) ruled Monday.

The court found that State officials participated in the plot to kidnap and rape journalist Jineth Bedoya, and subsequently failed to investigate the crimes.

President Ivan Duque promised to “fully comply” with the court order to investigate crimes committed against the journalist, create a memorial for victims of sexual violence during the armed conflict and finance Bedoya’s journalistic project on violence against women, “No es Hora de Callar” (It’s Not The Time To Be Quiet).

The government’s legal representative, Camilo Gomez, walked out of the trial in March, claiming that the court was “prejudiced.”

Bedoya celebrated the court ruling that vindicated her rights more than 21 years after one of the most shocking crimes committed by paramilitaries and state officials during Colombia’s armed conflict.

October 18, 2021 will go down in history as the day on which a struggle, which began with an individual crime, led to the vindication of the rights of thousands of women victims of sexual violence and of women journalists who spend part of their lives in their profession.

Jineth Bedoya

“Now the battle begins so make the State comply with the demands made by the court,” Bedoya told the BBC.

The crime

Fighters of now-defunct paramilitary organization AUC kidnapped Bedoya from inside Bogota’s El Modelo prison in May 2000.

Bedoya had been invited to the prison for an interview about a war with members of now-defunct guerrilla group FARC that was going on inside El Modelo at the time.

The invitation for an interview was a trap, however, and AUC fighters kidnapped the journalist from inside the prison while threatening to kill the colleagues that were with Bedoya

The journalist was subsequently taken to an unknown located where she was drugged, tortured and raped by multiple paramilitaries for more than 10 hours.

This is a message for journalism in Colombia.

One of Bedoya’s rapists

The AUC fighters told Bedoya that she was raped because “you fucking journalists have turned the country into shit” and that they were ordered “to clean up the media,” according to the court.

The battered journalist was subsequently dumped on the side of a road just outside of Colombia’s capital.

The revictimization

Only three former members of the AUC have been convicted for the crimes committed against the journalist despite evidence that at least 25 people took part, according to the court.

The investigation into the kidnapping and rape of Bedoya was marred by negligence since the beginning.

For starters, prosecution investigators didn’t collect the clothes of the journalist, which would allow the identification of suspects through DNA tests.

The prosecution took seven years to order prison authority INPEC to surrender security camera footage of the kidnapping and 10 years to surrender the list of guards working at the time.

Bedoya was called in to testify 12 times. On one occasion, the journalist was asked if she wouldn’t be ashamed if her mother found out how many men had raped her.

The Aguilas Negras, a far-right group with apparent ties to the security forces, threatened to assassinate Bedoya ahead of the journalist’s lawsuit against the State.

The ongoing suffering

Both Bedoya and her mother continue to suffer the consequences of the rape and the prosecution’s persistent failures to investigate.

According to the court, the journalist’s mother is suffering from anxiety and panic attacks as a direct consequence of the 21-year-long affair that followed her daughter’s rape.

Bedoya wasn’t able to walk for a week after she was asked to testify before the court in Costa Rica and one of the three hernias caused by the torture enflamed.

The psychologist of the 47-year-old journalist testified that Bedoya additionally has been suffering chronic depressions and chest pains for the past two decades.

Notwithstanding, the journalist has continued working and is currently the deputy editor-in-chief of El Tiempo, one of Colombia’s leading newspapers.

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