IACHR Press Office
Washington, D.C. – The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) issued Resolution 69/2021 on August 28, 2021, to grant precautionary measures in favor of José Alberto Tejada Echeverri and Jhonatan Buitrago in Colombia, in the belief that they face a serious, urgent risk of suffering irreparable harm to their rights.
The request for these precautionary measures noted that the beneficiaries, a journalist and a camera operator for Channel 2 in Cali, Colombia, are allegedly being subjected to threats, harassment, and other forms of violence in retaliation for their coverage of the protests and the violence that have taken place in Colombia since April 28, 2021. The request for these precautionary measures submitted information about the attacks and threats that allegedly targeted the two men as they did their job during protests, about the alleged payment made to someone to attack Tejada, and about the threats, surveillance, and tracking both men were allegedly subjected to as they moved around, at each of their homes, and at Channel 2 facilities. The request for these precautionary measures further noted that, for lack of protection measures in their favor, the two men had had to adopt their own security measures, using community donations.
The State said it had received formal complaints over threats issued against the two beneficiaries and submitted information about the protocols in place concerning protests and the use of force by law enforcement agencies. The State further noted that, following a decision made by a public prosecutor, the Lido police station tried to adopt preventive measures to minimize the risks to the two men, but that these measures had not been implemented due to the beneficiaries' failure to cooperate.
The Commission welcomed reports published in the protest context in Colombia, considering the risks faced by journalists particularly in Cali. The IACHR further took into consideration the State's role as a warrantor of the rights of rights defenders. The Commission therefore took into consideration the violence alleged to have taken place during protests (which it observed might have directly targeted the beneficiaries) and the allegations that someone might have been paid to attack Tejada. Both allegations show that the alleged risks exceeded the protests, because the two men were being followed and watched at home and on Channel 2 premises. The IACHR further found that the State lacks an appropriate, effective security scheme to address the risks that are being alleged, which led it to conclude that the two beneficiaries face serious and urgent risks and that their rights to life and personal integrity are in danger.
Consequently, in keeping with Article 25 of its Rules of Procedure, the Commission asked the Colombian State to take the following action: a) adopt any measures necessary to protect the rights to life and integrity of José Alberto Tejada Echeverri and Jhonatan Buitrago (in particular, the State needs both to ensure that its officers will respect beneficiaries' lives and personal integrity and to protect these persons' rights from dangerous acts that may be perpetrated by third parties, in compliance with the standards of international human rights law); b) adopt any measures necessary to enable José Alberto Tejada Echeverri and Jhonatan Buitrago to do their work as journalists without being subjected to threats, harassment, and other forms of violence as they conduct their tasks (this includes taking action so both men can exercise their right to freedom of expression); c) come to an agreement with beneficiaries and their representatives regarding any measures that need to be taken; and d) report on any actions adopted to investigate the alleged events that gave rise to the adoption of this precautionary measure, in order to prevent such events from happening again in the future.
The fact that this precautionary measure has been granted and its adoption by the State do not entail a prejudgment on a potential petition that may be filed before the Inter-American system to allege violations of rights protected by the American Convention on Human Rights and other applicable instruments.
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.