CAMBIOColombia, November 4, 2023
(Translated by Eunice Gibson, CSN Volunteer Translator)
In conversation with Patricia Lara, journalist Jineth Bedoya, who in the year 2000 was kidnapped at the gate of the Model Prison, and then sexually assaulted repeatedly, with the complicity of Colombian government officials, makes some very serious revelations about her case. “There are very important people implicated; people that they don’t want to touch,” she says.
Jineth Bedoya is a 49-year-old journalist who on May 25, 2000 was kidnapped and sexually assaulted with the complicity of agents of the Colombian government. She is the winner of the Guillermo Cano-Unesco World Press Freedom Award, and is the founder of the movement that has done so much good for women, called Not the Time to be Silent. In this interview with CAMBIO, she reveals why, after 23 years without any results obtained, she stopped demanding that the Attorney General’s Office continue investigating her case. In addition, she says that she will dedicate herself to fighting to make the Colombian government comply with the Inter-American Court’s order in its decision on her kidnapping and sexual assault. She reiterates that the mastermind of her tragedy was former General Leonardo Gallego, then the Director of the Dijin (Directorate of Criminal Investigation and Interpol), part of the Colombian Police. She states that, in spite of receiving repeated summons to testify in the matter, he has never responded.
There is no name for the agony that Jineth has experienced in these 23 years. In the year 2000 she was working for EL ESPECTADOR. She had been threatened because her reports on weapons trafficking and the buying and selling of kidnap victims at the Model Prison had made a lot of noise. So, at the recommendation of intelligence officials with the Colombian Police, she went to the prison on May 25 of that year along with a photographer and Jorge Cardona, the editor of EL ESPECTADOR. That means that the highest-ranking officials of the Colombian Police knew that Jineth would be going to the prison on that day. Her purpose was to talk with the paramilitary boss at the prison to see if it would be possible to halt the threats being made against her. At that time, she and her mother had already been the victims of one assault. In spite of the fact that the card admitting her to the prison was ready, the interview never took place, because while Jorge Cardona went to pick up the photographer so they could all go into the prison, Jineth was approached at the prison gate by a man and a woman who were aiming a 9mm pistol at her. And after they passed a Police patrol, she was taken to a place nearby, beaten up, and after a long passage in which she had to face every kind of torture, she was gang raped in a place where there were men in uniform, and then she was abandoned on a highway, barely alive. Through all of it, she was repeatedly reminded that this was all happening to her as a lesson to the press not to stick their noses where they had no business.
Following all of this, some journalists gathered evidence and recorded voices of the perpetrators along with members of the Technical Investigation Corps (CTI) of the Attorney General’s Office. But after part of the file was lost, the case was paralyzed for 11 years. The investigation was only re-activated when the Foundation for Freedom of the Press filed a complaint before the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights. Many years later, thanks to investigations by journalists and testimony by paramilitaries, it was established that the person who hired the perpetrators who had kidnapped Jineth was none other than the former General of the Colombian Police, Leonardo Gallego. At the time of her kidnapping and sexual assaults, he was the Director of the Dijin. Gallego has denied having anything to do with the crimes. Nevertheless, even after such an accusation, nothing happened, and the investigation remained stalled. But when the Inter-American Court took the case, it found that the government of Colombia was responsible for the violation of several of Jineth Bedoya’s rights, including her rights to physical integrity, personal liberty, honor, dignity, and freedom of thought and expression. The Court established the responsibility of the Colombian government, but its representatives, instead of begging pardon and providing reparation, rejected the judges and walked out of the hearing. That was in 2021.
Ever since then, disregarding the hard decision and order by the Inter-American Court against the government of Colombia in this case, which Jineth Bedoya said had ended her life, nothing else has happened. Suddenly, six months ago, the Attorney General’s Office summoned one of the prison guards, Marco Javier Morantes, to give testimony. He was the guard who captured her at the gate of the Model Prison.
But we are now leaving this courageous journalist, highly respected on the international stage, who speaks out in this impressive interview, where sometimes her voice trembles as she demands an answer from the former general whom she accuses of being the mastermind of her kidnapping and sexual assault. She speaks of her legal case and denounces the apathy of the Attorney General’s Office during all these 23 years. Precisely because of that apathy, to the shame of this country, it was convicted by the Inter-American Court in the case brought by Jineth Bedoya, and she has decided to speak out: “Gentlemen of the Attorney General’s Office, enough with the dog and pony show. You’re done ‘investigating’!”