The International Press Institute (IPI), a global network of editors, media executives and leading journalists for press freedom, today condemned the Colombian government’s decision to leave the online public hearing in the case of journalist Jineth Bedoya at the Inter-American Court of Human Rights, as well as their attempts to harass her.

On Monday, March 15 a public hearing was held by the Inter-American Court to assess the case of Bedoya who was kidnapped, tortured and sexually abused while on assignment at the Modelo prison in Bogotá in May 2000. The case, which has been ongoing for more than 20 years, could set a precedent for impunity in sexual violence cases against women and girls in the country during the civil war.

“We are outraged by the Colombian government’s move to leave these proceedings, which are the culmination of a 20-year fight for justice”. IPI Deputy Director Scott Griffen said. “Jineth was the victim of a horrific assault for doing her job, but the Colombian state still has not punished all those responsible. We urge Colombia to swiftly return to these proceedings and ensure that impunity is not allowed to prevail in this case.”

The Colombian government representative, Camilo Gómez, caused indignation during the hearing by accusing five of the six the judges of prejudging the Colombian State and lacking objectivity when questioning the journalist. The official also announced that Colombia would be seeking recusal of judges and left the meeting before the State’s witness could testify.

Two days later, the court declared the State’s challenges against the judges inadmissible and denied its request for annulment of the proceedings and the exclusion of the questions from the records. The proceedings are expected to continue.

On the same day, the Colombian authorities issued a missive to Bedoya in which they proposed to “sit down to talk and seek a friendly solution”. According to media reports, the journalist rejected the proposal expressing that “the recognition of responsibilities must be given before the Inter-American Court”. She also deemed the act harassing due to the publication of the document on social media.

CEJIL and FLIP, the organizations representing Bedoya, have denounced Colombia’s attitude which “demonstrates the State’s indifference to the victims of sexual violence during Colombia’s armed conflict and denies dignified spaces for access to justice”.