Caoilfhionn Gallagher QC gives expert evidence to the Inter-American Court of Human Rights

This week, the Inter-American Court of Human Rights concluded its public hearings in the case of Bedoya Lima y Otras vs. Colombia. Judgment is now awaited.

The case concerns journalist Jineth Bedoya Lima (“Jineth Bedoya”) and her mother, Luz Nelly Lima. In May 2000, Jineth Bedoya was kidnapped at the entrance to La Modelo Prison in Bogotá while waiting for authorization to enter for an interview relating to her investigative work on paramilitaries and armed conflict in Colombia’s prisons. During the kidnapping, she was drugged, tortured and raped and told by her attackers that this was “punishment” for her journalism. This attack followed repeated earlier threats to Jineth Bedoya, a 1999 attack on her and her mother, and multiple reports to the State authorities about the risks faced.

Jineth Bedoya sought justice in Colombia for almost two decades, during which time she faced additional threats seeking to silence her. In January 2019, the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (CIDH) adopted a “Merits Report” on her case. In July 2019 the CIDH referred her case to the Inter-American Court of Human Rights (IACtHR) in Costa Rica. The CIDH has described the significance of this case:

“This case constitutes the first opportunity for the Court to rule on the State’s obligation to prevent when it comes to cases related to the right to freedom of expression of women journalists, and on the positive obligation to protect with a gender perspective to guarantee the safety of women when in situations of special risk, in one of the most dangerous regions in the world for the exercise of journalism.”

The public hearings before the IACtHR took place in March 2021, concluding this week on Wednesday 24 March. Caoilfhionn Gallagher QC was an expert witness, appointed by the CIDH, and invited by the IACtHR to provide an expert report on violence against women journalists, sexual and gender-based violence, and applicable international standards. At the conclusion of the hearing, the IACtHR ordered Colombia to immediately protect the journalist: "This court considers there to be ... an extremely serious and urgent situation, with the view to suffering irreparable damage, to Jineth Bedoya Lima and (her mother) Luz Nelly Lima.” The IACtHR’s judgment is now awaited.

Caoilfhionn heads the Doughty Street International Media Defence Panel. More detail about the work and expertise of the Panel is available here.