An Odyssey Of 19 Years Seeking Justice

On May 2000 in Bogotá, when journalist Jineth Bedoya was heading to jail for an interview with paramilitary leader Mario Jaimes Mejía, she was intercepted before reaching prison and was tortured and sexually abused. Bedoya was held in captivity for 16 hours and was left on the outskirts of Bogotá where she was finally able to find help.

The journey of Bedoya to seek justice has taken almost two decades. Only in 2016 was the person she was supposed to interview in jail sentenced to 28 years of imprisonment for the crimes of abduction and torture. On 7 May 2019, two more people were convicted for crimes relating to the kidnapping. During trial, the judge requested to investigate General José Leonardo Gallego, the former director of the police’s criminal investigation unit. It is almost certain that the abduction of Bedoya was due to her work as a journalist and primarily to an investigation that involved a massacre inside the prison and other acts of corruption within the jail.

Women are extremely vulnerable in conflict situations: sexual abuse, rape, slavery and forced abortion are some of the violent acts that are committed in international and non-international armed conflicts. Journalists are also persecuted and are often the target of violent attacks. For instance, in Colombia, from 1977 to 2014, 152 journalists were murdered; in Syria, since 2011, more than 200 journalists were killed; and in Iraq and Yemen, approximately six journalists are killed every year.

As the investigation of the criminal actions around Jineth Bedoya’s abduction remained in its preliminary stages for 14 years. In 2014, the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights declared the admission of a petition against Colombia for alleged breaches of human rights under the American Convention on Human Rights. Recently, on 19 January 2019, the Inter-American Commission decided on the substance of the matter and approved the merits report. Whether the case will be heard in the Inter-American Court of Human Rights is still uncertain. However, the importance of an international rule on a case of violence against a female journalist in contexts of armed conflicts is urgent.