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Knight Center

JOURNALISM IN THE AMERICAS Blog

After 17 years without justice, journalist's murder in Colombia reaches the Inter-American Court



The case of Colombian journalist Nelson Carvajal, murdered on April 16, 1998, was submitted to the Inter-American Court of Human Rights on October 22 by the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR).

As announced by the Inter-American Press Association (IAPA), the organization and Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights asked the IACHR to send the case to the Court "after 17 years, since the murder has not been solved by the Colombian government.”

“Although there is still a hard path to take before the Inter-American Court, we are confident that justice will be done and important precedents will be set to deal with other murder cases that continue to go unpunished in the Americas,” said IAPA president Pierra Manigault, according to a press release from the organization.

As stipulated in the Inter-American System of Human Rights, for a case to reach the Inter-American Court of Human Rights, it is necessary that the Commission present it as established in its mandate and functions.

At the time of the murder, Carvajal, 37, was the director of the news program Momento Regional and of the radio magazines Mirador de la Semana and Amenecer en el Campo of Emisora Radio Sur in the municipality of Pitalito, in the department of Huila, according to information from the Foundation for Press Freedom (FLIP for its acronym in Spanish).

Carvajal was “noted for his strong denunciations against corruption of the local political class and the alleged relationships between it and different armed groups,” FLIP said.

The journalist was killed as he was leaving the Los Pinos School, where he was also a teacher, when a hitman shot him seven times.

According to IAPA, an organization that has been investigating the case since 2002, the people investigated for the crime were acquitted, including Fernando Bermúdez, who was accused of being the alleged instigator of the crime (mastermind), according to IAPA.

Between 2005 and 2009, the IAPA and the government of Colombia held meetings to reach a “friendly settlement”, but "the process was suspended by the IAPA due to the lack of progress in seeking to solve the crime."

According to this organization, there have been some irregularities in the murder investigation, such as the fact that the case has been passed by four different prosecutors, one of whom – for example – refused to receive testimony from people interested in giving it and is now a fugitive. Another prosecutor received death threats.

Carvajal’s family members have also been threatened and have been forced to leave the country.

The case also represents a problem that is common in the continent, such as the worsening violence against journalists that is often linked to increasing organized crime, and which disproportionately affects reporters covering topics such as corruption, public safety and organized crime in rural areas or regions within each country

“The Carvajal case will serve as an important marker in the Inter-American Human Rights System to strengthen the jurisprudence on the right to freedom of expression and demonstrate that these crimes will not remain in impunity,” said Santiago Cantón, executive director of RFK Partners for Human Rights.

 

 



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