23 December 2010
Much achieved, but more still to be done
The year is ending with good news in the battle against impunity the statute of limitations in cases of crimes against journalists in Colombia will now be extended to 30 years once President Juan Manuel Santos signs that into law.
The year is ending with good news in the battle against impunity the statute of limitations in cases of crimes against journalists in Colombia will now be extended to 30 years once President Juan Manuel Santos signs that into law. This is an achievement that has few precedents in the Americas and one that was reached after a major study carried out by the IAPA, Andiarios and specialists former judge Rodrigo Uprimny and lawyer Guillermo Puyana. It was a study which showed that in order to fight against impunity what is needed is to put a halt to granting parole and thus to subject the guilty to real punishment. Already in 2001 it had been achieved that Congress include the stiffening of penalties for offenses against journalists in the Criminal Procedure Code. Now added to that is the increase in the length of statutes of limitation. The year 2010 should be remembered as the one in which important decisions were taken against the perpetrators and masterminds of crimes against the press, thus breaking many years of impunity. The Attorney Generals Office, as investigatory body, and judges made major decisions that affected emblematic cases and that entailed serious difficulties in bringing those guilty of murder to justice, as in the case of the murder of Jaime Garzón. The Colombian Attorney Generals Office issued an order for the preventive detention, without benefit of release from jail, of José Miguel Narváez, former deputy chief of the Security Administrative Department (DAS), as alleged mastermind of the murder of Garzón, a journalist and humorist. There were also decisions that could be seen as novel, such as that of the Attorney Generals Office concerning the death of the former editor of El Espectador, Guillermo Cano Isaza, describing his murder as a crime against humanity in order to prevent a statute of limitations being applied. And in another encouraging development the National Prosecutors Directorate agreed to act on the request of the IAPA that it locate, review and activate 26 cases of crimes against journalists that had gone before tribunals in various parts of the country. The case against Mario Prada, which had been shelved, was reactivated, in four cases legal review was begun and in another six investigations were reassigned to the Human Rights Unit in Bogotá. In addition, two former members of the Autodefensas de Colombia (Colombia Self-Defense) movement were charged with the April 2003 murder of Jaime Rengifo. And sentenced to 40 years in prison was a mayor, Esneder Mayorga Corrales, as the person responsible for the murder of journalist Hernando Salas Rojas on May 20, 2009. For many years the IAPA, following a number of inquiries and production of a major video documentary, shown in various parts of the Americas, about the murder of the managing editor of the newspaper La Patria, Orlando Sierra, asked that two politicians in Caldas province be linked to the investigation. The same thing had been requested by the Colombian Attorney Generals Office and, at last, the National Human Rights Units Ninth District Prosecutors Office named in the inquiries Ferney Tapasco González and his son, former member of Congress Dixon Tapasco Triviño, as alleged masterminds of Sierras murder. While 2010 will come to be seen as one of the years of most progress against impunity, there is still much be done.