IAPA sends murdered Colombian journalist case to Inter-American Commission on Human Rights

WASHINGTON, D.C. (June 21, 2002) — The Inter American Press Association
(IAPA) today submitted to the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR)
the findings of its investigation into the murder of a Colombian journalist in
which it turned up serious irregularities in the legal proceedings and the need
for a thorough review of the case.

IAPA President Robert J. Cox, within the framework of the Hemisphere Summit
on Justice and Press Freedom which winds up here tomorrow (Saturday), delivered
to IACHR Executive Secretary Santiago Cantón the case file on Nelson
Carvajal Carvajal, murdered in Colombia on April 16, 1998, based on on-the-spot
inquiries conducted by the IAPA’s Rapid Response Unit, in which shortcomings
were found in the official investigation and subsequent legal proceedings.

Carvajal was editor of the local newscast “Momento Regional” broadcast
in the current affairs programs “Mirador de la Semana, “Amanecer”
and “Tribuna Médica” by Radio Sur radio station in Ptalito,
Huila province, 307 miles from the Colombian capital, Bogotá. He was
also the founder of a school, of which he was the principal at the time of his

Carvajal, who was well known for his exposures of alleged wrongdoing by local
officials, was shot seven times by an assailant who fled on a motorcycle. A
court acquitted three defendants accused of masterminding or actually carrying
out his murder. But the IAPA uncovered aspects of the case that were mishandled.

The IAPA said in its submission to the IACHR that there had been a violation
of the American Convention on Human Rights’ Article 4 regarding the right
to life, Articles 8 and 25 on the right to have justice done, and Article 13
on the right to freedom of expression.

It added that the Carvajal case was riddled with irregularities, among them
the fact that the official investigation was handled one after another by a
total of four different prosecutors, which considerably slowed it down; inquiries
that were supposed to be made in private were done publicly, putting witnesses
at risk and discouraging others from coming forward; statements by eye-witnesses
were discredited; not all leads and theories were followed up, and an investigator
and a number of witnesses were threatened.

Cox, assistant editor of The Post and Courier, Charleston, South Carolina,
declared that “from 1997 to date the IAPA has submitted to the IACHR a
total of 16 murder cases investigated by the organization, many of which remain
unpunished due to the lack of political will and indifference on the part of
governments to investigate and solve these crimes.”

He added that along with its findings in the Carvajal case, the IAPA had provided
new information on the murders of three other Colombian journalists, Carlos
Lajud Catalán, Gerardo Bedoya and Jairo Elías Márquez,
as a follow-up to its previous presentations on them to the IACHR and to show
that there were further irregularities that were causing the perpetrators to
continue to go unpunished.

Other cases that the IAPA has submitted to the IACHR or on which it has provided
information are those of Manoel Leal de Oliveira, Aristeu Guida da Silva, Zaqueu
de Oliveira, Edgar Lopes de Faria and Ronaldo Santana de Araújo of Brazil;
Jorge Carpio Nicolle and Irma Flaquer of Guatemala; Guillermo Cano and Hernando
Rangel of Colombia, and Héctor Félix Miranda, Benjamín
Flores Morales and Víctor Manuel Oropeza of Mexico.

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