Jineth Bedoya Lima hooked her eyes on the middle distance and gave a look of contempt. She was tucked in a seat at a hearing of the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, where she made a surprise statement one morning last week. A small woman bundled in a black winter coat and generous white scarf, Bedoya tore into her audience — officials from the Colombian government and commission representatives.
“When you look at my face,” she told them, “make sure you see the thousands and thousands of Colombian women who do not have the opportunity to speak to you today.”
As a journalist who was kidnapped, tortured, and violently gang-raped 11 years ago, when she was 26, Bedoya had finally gotten the chance she’d been waiting for, one that most women who’ve endured what she has will never get. After 11 years of her case lying motionless at Colombia’s attorney general’s office, she has the prospect of seeing some justice at the international level.
During a morning visit to Bogota’s maximum-security La Modelo prison in May 2000, as part of a newspaper investigation into alleged arms trafficking involving state officials and members of the right-wing paramilitary group United Self-Defense Forces of Colombia (AUC), she was grabbed, drugged, and driven hours away. Three men repeatedly raped her and left her bound in a garbage dump at the side of a road, where a taxi driver discovered her that evening.
Later Bedoya told the news media how her kidnappers had gripped her hair and told her to “pay attention” as they tortured her. “We are sending a message to the press in Colombia,” they said.
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