High court orders protection for Colombian journalist

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BOGOTA, Colombia

The Inter-American Court of Human Rights issued a resolution Wednesday ordering the Colombian state to protect the life of journalist Jineth Bedoya, who was kidnapped, tortured and raped at the hands of paramilitaries over two decades ago.  

On Tuesday, Colombia apologized to Bedoya before the Court for the violence inflicted on her. 

The state “asks Jineth Bedoya for forgiveness for these acts and for the damage they caused,” said Camilo Gomez, the director of Colombia’s National Agency for Legal Defense of the State. 

Gomez also apologized to Bedoya for making her tell her story in court 12 times, which ended up re-victimizing her. 

The move comes after Colombian representatives withdrew in protest from the public hearing to determine the state’s responsibility. They accused the court of being “biased” and requested the recusal of five of the six judges overseeing the case, citing a “lack of objectivity.” 

The decision to withdraw was criticized by human rights and journalists’ organizations. 

Bedoya was abducted by a right-wing armed paramilitary group at the entrance to La Modelo prison in Bogota in May 2000, when she was reporting on alleged arms trafficking inside the jail. She was driven to another city, tortured, beaten and sexually abused for 16 hours before being abandoned on the side of a road. 

Since then, Bedoya has been the advocate of thousands of women who have suffered sexual violence throughout a six-decade conflict in the country. 

Although three of her attackers have been sent to prison, authorities have not prosecuted high-ranking officials allegedly involved in the crime. Her kidnapping was carried out with the complicity of state agents including a police general, according to the testimony she gave in court. 

Bedoya requested protection measures and for La Modelo prison to be shut down and transformed into a space of memory.

The defense said there is no “sufficient evidence to demonstrate the participation of state agents in the events” and considered the closure of the penitentiary unfeasible. 

The parties have until April 23 to submit their final written arguments and then the court is due to rule on Colombia’s responsibility in the coming months.

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