Press Release

IACHR Welcomes Signing of Friendly Settlement Agreement for Case No. 12.908, Jorge Adolfo Freytter, Concerning Colombia

August 28, 2020

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Washington, D.C. - The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) welcomes the signing of the friendly settlement agreement for Case 12.908, Jorge Adolfo Freytter, which was signed by the José Alvear Restrepo Lawyers’ Collective (CAJAR), representing the victim and his family, and the Colombian State, on August 28, 2020.

On January 30, 2004, the IACHR received a petition alleging that the Republic of Colombia was responsible for the illegal arrest, disappearance, torture, and extrajudicial execution of Jorge Adolfo Freytter Romero, which took place between August 28 and 29, 2001, in the city of Barranquilla, and also for the lack of investigation and judicial clarification of these events. Jorge Freytter had been part of the faculty at the Universidad del Atlántico in Barranquilla for approximately 20 years, during which time he allegedly played an active role in various labor union activities. The events discussed here unfolded against a backdrop of persecution against Universidad del Atlántico student leaders and union and faculty members by the United Self-Defence Forces of Colombia (AUC—Bloque Norte) in the Department of Atlántico. At the time (2001), this paramilitary group was allegedly acting in collusion with members of the security forces belonging to the National Police Force’s Unified Action Group for Personal Liberty (GAULA) and the National Army of Barranquilla.

On August 28, 2001, Mr. Freytter was arrested by a group of “heavily armed” men at his residence in the city of Barranquilla. The men allegedly pushed him violently into a vehicle and took him to an unknown destination, after which he was subjected to acts of torture before finally dying from asphyxiation caused by a “bag” that was allegedly covering his head. On August 29, 2001, in the early hours of the morning, Jorge Freytter was found dead with a bullet wound and signs of torture on the side of the road at kilometer 12 of the Ciénaga–Barranquilla highway, in the village of Palermo, Department of Magdalena.

On July 1, 2013, the IACHR issued Admissibility Report No. 38/13, in which it declared itself competent to examine the alleged violation of the rights enshrined in articles 3 (the right to juridical personality), 7 (the right to personal liberty), 4 (the right to life), 5 (the right to humane treatment), 8 (the right to a fair trial), 13 (the right to freedom of thought and expression), 16 (the right to freedom of association), 22 (the right to freedom of movement and residence), and 25 (the right to judicial protection), in accordance with articles 1.1 and 1.2 of the American Convention on Human Rights. It also declared itself competent to analyze the alleged violations of the rights enshrined in article 1, 6, 8 of the Inter-American Convention to Prevent and Punish Torture and article I.b) of the Inter-American Convention on the Forced Disappearance of Persons.

On March 7, 2018, the parties signed a memorandum of understanding to seek a friendly settlement, which they reached and signed on August 28, 2020, and in which the Colombian State acknowledged its international responsibility for the illegal arrest, torture, and extrajudicial execution of Jorge Adolfo Freytter. The a friendly settlement agreement they signed contains significant measures of satisfaction such as i) a public recognition of responsibility and high-profile public apologies; ii) educational grants for the victim’s children; iii) commemorative scholarships for an undergraduate program at the Universidad del Atlántico; iv) the continuation of training programs on human rights and international humanitarian law within the armed forces; v) rehabilitation measures consisting of medical, psychological, and psychosocial care to prioritize the provision of appropriate, timely treatment for the victim’s family; vi) measures of justice to promote the investigation and possible identification of other perpetrators; vii) the publication of the agreement; and viii) financial reparation. The date on which the agreement was signed is highly significant for Jorge Freytter’s family as it was the 19th anniversary of the events in question.

The IACHR provided support for both sides during the friendly settlement process and was represented at the ceremony that was held today to sign the agreement. “The events that occurred are extremely painful for the Freytter family in and of themselves, and the 16 long years that they have spent seeking justice and reparation have only added to that pain. The friendly settlement that was reached covers the fundamental aspects of the events that took place and honors Jorge Freytter’s memory through significant measures of satisfaction.”

The IACHR appreciated the constant, collaborative dialogue between the state of Colombia and the petitioning party in the process of designing this friendly settlement agreement. It urges the relevant authorities to make headway on complying with the international obligations that derive from the agreement until it has been fully complied with and the victims have been fully compensated. The IACHR also appreciates the good will of the petitioning party and the victim’s two sons, Jorge Freytter Florián and Jorge Freytter Franco, and their commitment to reaching an agreement that will allow their rights to be fully restored.

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. 204/20