The Inter-American Court of Human Rights on Monday ruled that the state of Colombia bears "responsibility" for the ordeal of a female journalist who was kidnapped, raped and then tortured in 2000 by paramilitaries.
The Colombian state was guilty of "failing to investigate the threats that had been received by" journalist Jineth Bedoya who was at the time investigating a criminal network, according to a statement released by the judicial wing of the Organization of American States (OAS), headquartered in San Jose, Costa Rica.
The state was guilty of "violating the rights to judicial guarantees, judicial protection and equality before the law, due to a lack of diligence in carrying out investigations," the court ruled.
Jineth Bedoya, now 47, was working for the newspaper El Espectador when a group of paramilitaries kidnapped her on May 25, 2000 in front of La Modelo prison in Bogota.
They tortured and raped her for sixteen hours, before leaving her lying naked by the side of a road.
She was investigating a weapons smuggling ring at the prison when she was abducted.
At the court hearing, she implicated agents of the state, in particular an "influential" general of the police force.
The acts "could not have be carried out without the consent and collaboration of the State, or at least with its tolerance," the Court ruled on Monday.
In March, the same court had already ordered the Colombian state to ensure "immediately" the safety of the journalist and her mother, who have both been victims of threats. At that time, the Colombian state asked the journalist for forgiveness.
The paramilitaries, some of whom have since been convicted, were part of the far-right militias that fought left-wing guerrillas in Colombia until their official demobilization in 2006.
Bedoya celebrated the court's findings on Twitter.
"October 18, 2021 goes down in history as the day when a struggle that began with an individual crime has led to the vindication of the rights of thousands of women who have been victims of sexual violence and of women journalists who leave a part of their lives in their work," wrote Bedoya, who won the UNESCO World Press Freedom prize in 2020.
Conservative President Ivan Duque said on Twitter that Colombia "fully accepts the decision."
Bedoya "should never have been kidnapped and tortured," he added.
The Press Freedom Foundation (FLIP) welcomed the "dignified" decision for a woman who "has tirelessly sought justice for more than 20 years".