Jineth Bedoya Lima is an award-winning investigative journalist and an advocate for the rights of women victims of violence in Colombia. Recognized for her reporting on the activities of Colombian paramilitaries, she was following up on a lead about alleged arms sales between paramilitaries and Colombian state officials at a maximum-security prison on 25 May 2000. Jineth was abducted from the prison, tortured, and sexually assaulted as a “message to the press”.
Fifteen years later, the first two perpetrators have only just been convicted for these acts, and Jineth's case has become synonymous with the impunity that plagues Colombia's justice system. Although several perpetrators have been identified and apprehended, obtaining convictions has been a glacial process, and the judiciary has mishandled the case on several occasions.
In the absence of justice, the Foundation for Press Freedom (FLIP), an IFEX member, presented a petition to the Inter-American Commission for Human Rights in 2011. The case has been in progress at the Commission ever since and is currently awaiting the Colombian Government's response to findings regarding its culpability in the incident, considering the complicity of its state agents in the attacks.
Far from being intimidated from speaking out, Jineth herself has become a fervent advocate for press freedom and women's rights in Colombia, particularly through her “Now is not the time to be silent” campaign.
Timeline of Events
There is a history of threats against journalist Jineth Bedoya Lima dating back as far as 1998. In August 1999, the Colombian government offers to provide her with protective measures. Jineth accepts the offer but never receives a response from the State.
On 25 May 2000, Jineth Bedoya is kidnapped, tortured and sexually assaulted while conducting an investigation into corruption in the La Modelo prison.
On 2 June 2000, the Inter-American Commission on Human Right (IACHR) grants precautionary measures to Jineth Bedoya Lima and other journalists, based on a request submitted by the Foundation for Press Freedom (FLIP).
Jineth is kidnapped by the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) and held for five days.
Jineth begins her campaign, “No Es Hora De Callar” (Now is not the time to be silent), which seeks to create awareness and condemn violence against women, especially sexual assaults within the framework of the Colombian conflict.
In November 2010 Jineth is forced to leave Colombia as a result of several security incidents linked to her work as a journalist. Upon publishing her book “Vida y Muerte del Mono Jojoy” (Life and Death of Mono Jojoy), she receives threats originating from the FARC, along with information that she would be kidnapped and assassinated.
During the 11 years since her kidnapping, torture and sexual assault, the authorities failed to investigate the crime, and on several occasions Jineth Bedoya was asked to investigate and identify, via her journalistic work, who was behind her own attacks. As a result, FLIP provides her with legal support at the national and international level.
In June 2011, a petition regarding the case is filed with the IACHR.
In July 2011, paramilitary group member Alejandro Cárdenas confesses before the Public Prosecutor to having participated in the kidnapping and torture of journalist Jineth Bedoya.
(Spanish only) In October 2011, at the IACHR offices in Washington, Colombian government representatives offer public apologies to Jineth Bedoya “for not having taken action at the time” and promise to ensure that there are changes in the investigation.
In September 2012, the Public Prosecutor’s Office links three former paramilitary group members to the attacks, Mario Jaimes Mejía, alias ‘El Panadero’, Alejandro Cárdenas (J.J.) and Jesús Pereira (Huevo de Pizca) and declares the actions against the journalist to be a crime against humanity.
In 2013, a different branch of the Public Prosecutor’s Office (Justice and Peace) takes over the case. A year later, it is determined that the case does not fall within its jurisdiction.
In June 2014, the public prosecutor decides to shelve the investigations into the multiple threats that Jineth Bedoya has reported.
On 21 July, the IACHR accepts Jineth Bedoya’s case, obliging the Colombian State to provide information regarding its responsibility in the violation of the journalist’s rights to judicial protection, freedom of expression, and personal integrity, among other shortcomings.
On 26 September 2014, the prosecutor indicts former paramilitary group member Mario Jaimes Mejía (El Panadero) for the crimes of aggravated kidnapping, aggravated torture and sexual violence.
On 27 March 2015, the Fifth Criminal Court hears the case against Mario Jaimes Mejía. The hearing is initiated but never advances further due to requests for postponement brought forward by the both the accused and the Colombian judicial system.
(Spanish only) On 28 May 2015, the prosecutor responsible for Jineth's case shelves the investigation into the actions of paramilitary group member Alejandro Cárdenas. He is freed on 2 June.
(Spanish only) Amid national outrage and within the space of a week, the Federal Public Prosecutor’s Office takes several different positions on the decision within the space of a week. It finally annuls the original decision and re-arrests Alejandro Cárdenas.
On 11 June, the case is assigned to Prosecutor No. 50 of the Human Rights Division of the Public Prosecutor’s Office.
The trial of Mario Jaimes Mejía formally opens on 13 July, but is postponed on three occasions (28 July, 10 September and 14 December).
On 22 September, the prosecutor in charge of the case decides to bring Alejandro Cárdenas and Jesús Pereira to trial.
Within the framework of the IACHR’s 156th session, FLIP accompanies journalist Jineth Bedoya Lima in an official working meeting to demonstrate the impunity and obstacles to achieving justice in her case.
At a public hearing in Colombia on 2 February, Mario Jaimes Mejía accepts a plea bargain after confessing to all charges laid against him, acknowledging these as crimes against humanity but does not provide details about remaining perpetrators or other circumstances of the attack.
On 26 February, the first conviction is handed down as Alejandro Cárdenas Orozco, alias 'J.J.' is sentenced to 11 years in prison. Cárdenas was found guilty of kidnap and torture, but the prosecution for sexual assault remains ongoing.
Jineth Bedoya Lima via The Committee to Protect Journalists
On 18 March, the second conviction is handed down as Mario Jaimes Mejía alias “El Panadero”, is found guilty of kidnapping, sexual assault and torture and is sentenced to 28 years in prison, the maximum prison term for his crimes.
(Subtitled in English) On 5 April, Jineth Bedoya addresses the IACHR during the 157th Period of Sessions. Representatives of the Colombian Government express their willingness to cooperate with Jineth, but do not assume any responsibility for the mishandling of her case.
On August 19 2016, Mario Jaimes Mejía alias "el panadero" and Alejandro Cardenas Orozco, alias "JJ" are denied alternative justice mechanisms through the Justice and Peace Process by the Supreme Court. The judge stated that both Cardenas and Jaimes had provided misleading information in an attempt to receive less severe sentences.
NEW UPDATEJineth Brought Back to Court as Witness
On 1 March, Jineth takes the witness stand yet again after her testimony at the Supreme Court in Bogota is requested by Alejandro Cardenas and Jesus Pereira's lawyers and granted by the overseeing judge. For the 12th time, Jineth is forced to recount the story of her abduction and sexual assault, this time in the presence of Alejandro Cardenas Orozco. IFEX publishes a letter denouncing Jineth's revictimization which is formally submitted to Colombian authorities in Bogota. Journalists are denied access to the court following the judge's decision to invoke a clause limiting public access to more sensitive hearings.
What IFEX Members are doing
The Foundation for Press Freedom has been assisting with Jineth's case in the national courts and regional human rights commission. They actively campaign for better protections for journalists in Colombia and have committed to reducing the level of impunity country-wide.
The Committee to Protect Journalists has been advocating for justice for Jineth since the first days after her attack. Recently, a CPJ-FLIP delegation met with President Santos to demand an end to impunity and progress in several cases of attacks on journalists in Colombia, including that of Jineth Bedoya Lima.
More Resources & Information
Towards justice and peacebuilding: country profile of ColombiaAmericas 19 December 2016
Over the past few decades, freedom of expression has been one of the many victims of Colombia's civil war. Our No Impunity profile details the long road to justice and new hopes under the peace agreement.
60 Years of Spying on Journalists in ColombiaAmericas Foundation for Press Freedom - FLIP 1 September 2015
FLIP’s 9th annual report provides an overview of the press freedom situation in Colombia, including the increasing use of state surveillance.