Press Release

IACHR Publishes Report No. 22/20 on Case 12,909—Gerardo Bedoya Borrero, Colombia

May 19, 2020

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Washington, D.C. - The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) plans to approve the friendly settlement agreement in Case 12,909—Germán Gerardo Bedoya Borrero, Colombia. This agreement was signed on August 16, 2019 by the Colombian State and the Inter-American Press Association, the petitioning organization representing the victims in this case.

On September 23, 1999, the IACHR received a petition submitted by the Inter-American Press Association. The petition alleged that the Republic of Colombia bore international responsibility for the events that surrounded the homicide of journalist Gerardo Bedoya Borrero on March 21, 1997 in Cali, Valle del Cauca, and for the failure to investigate those events and punish the individuals responsible for them. Gerardo Bedoya Borrero was critical of drug trafficking in Valle del Cauca and focused his efforts as a journalist on exposing drug-gang infiltration into local and regional political elites.

On February 22, 2018, the parties signed a memorandum of understanding that led to a friendly settlement agreement signed on August 16, 2019. On November 13, 2019, the parties jointly requested approval for the agreement.

In this friendly settlement agreement, the State agreed to take the following measures:

1. continue to exercise its obligation to investigate, prosecute, and punish the people responsible for these events;
2. ask the Office of the Attorney General to assess the feasibility of creating a special agency during the criminal-justice procedure;
3. hold an event in Cali to acknowledge its responsibility and to issue a public apology;
4. name the road between Jamundí, Robles, and Timba after Gerardo Bedoya Borrero;
5. grant up to four study grants worth up to 12.5 million Colombian pesos each, to fund the undergraduate degree program in Social Communications at the Universidad del Valle;
6. create a prize to honor Gerardo Bedoya Borrero;
7. post the approval report on the websites of the Presidential Department for Human Rights and International Affairs and the National Agency for the State’s Legal Defense;
8. grant medical, psychological, and psychosocial assistance to the victims;
9. grant financial compensation, in accordance with Act 288 of 1996.

In its friendly settlement report on this case, the Commission highlighted the fact that there had been substantial compliance with this agreement. The IACHR noted that, on October 28, 2019, the National Agency for the State’s Legal Defense asked the Office of the Attorney General to assess the feasibility of creating a special agency, during the criminal-justice procedure being conducted before Public Prosecutor’s Office 190 (which belongs to the Specialist Department to Combat Human Rights Violations) for the homicide of Gerardo Bedoya. The IACHR therefore considered that full compliance had been attained in connection with this aspect of the friendly settlement agreement.

Concerning the public event to acknowledge responsibility, the Commission noted that it had attained full compliance. The event took place on September 30, 2019, in the city of Cali, Valle del Cauca, in the presence of State authorities, members of the victim’s family, representatives of the petitioning party, and representatives of organizations for the media and other elements of civil society. Concerning the new name of the road between Jamundí, Timba, and Robles, the IACHR also declared full compliance. On September 5, 2019, the Office of the Governor of Valle del Cauca issued Decree 1-3-1278, to name the road after Gerardo Bedoya Borrero. This decision was published on the Official Journal for the Department of Valle del Cauca and on the website of the Office for Peace and Reconciliation, and the victim’s family and their representatives were formally notified of it.

Concerning the item on health restoration, the Commission declared full compliance, partly because the petitioning party said that it had a point of contact at the Ministry of Health and Social Protection and that it had been informed of the benefits and services available whenever it needed to access healthcare.

In its assessment, the IACHR noted that there had been full compliance with four measures held in the friendly settlement agreement, concerning justice, redress, and rehabilitation. The Commission further noted that there had been partial compliance with three measures, concerning study grants, financial assistance, and the prize to honor the victim. In this context, the IACHR will continue to monitor the full implementation of the measures that remain pending, concerning study grants and a prize to pay tribute to the victim, publication of the approval report, and payment of financial compensation, along with measures to ensure justice is done.

The Commission closely followed the implementation of the friendly settlement that was agreed in this case and highly commends both parties for their efforts while negotiating the friendly settlement, which turned out to be compatible with the Convention’s aims and purposes. In this context, the IACHR congratulates both parties for their disposition and willingness to work toward solving this issue without litigation. The Commission will continue to monitor the implementation of all pending measures until full compliance is attained. Finally, the Commission commends the Colombian State for its efforts to build a public policy concerning friendly settlements and alternative conflict-resolution.

Friendly settlement report no. 22/20, concerning Case 12,909, is available here.

A principal, autonomous body of the Organization of American States (OAS), the IACHR derives its mandate from the OAS Charter and the American Convention on Human Rights. The Inter-American Commission has a mandate to promote respect for and to defend human rights in the region and acts as a consultative body to the OAS in this area. The Commission is composed of seven independent members who are elected in an individual capacity by the OAS General Assembly and who do not represent their countries of origin or residence.

No. 117/20