UN Rapporteurs Call on Colombian Government to Urgently Investigate Killing of Journalist Following Bellingcat and Cerosetenta Revelations

UN Special Rapporteurs have called on the Colombian Government to urgently investigate  the fatal shooting of indigenous journalist Abelardo Liz, following an investigation by Bellingcat and Cerosetenta

The UN Rapporteurs said impunity had prevailed in the case of Abelardo Liz highlighting that the Colombian Prosecutor’s Office had also found serious inconsistencies in soldiers’ accounts of events but no one has been convicted in the case. The rapporteurs expressed great concern about the ‘excessive use of force’ by soldiers at the demonstration in August of 2020 where Abelardo Liz was shot. 

The communication calls on the Colombian government to ensure a ‘comprehensive, diligent and effective investigation’ into the allegations outlined in Bellingcat and Cerosetenta’s report to determine who is responsible and ensure justice is served. 

So far the Colombian government has not responded to the UN’s letter within the 60 day period before it became public. The communication is designed to draw attention of governments to alleged human rights violations and request they are thoroughly investigated. A report summarising the communication and the government’s response will be presented to the Human Rights Council.

Bellingcat and Cerosetenta analysed 118 videos filmed on the day Abelardo Liz was shot, including footage captured by Abelardo himself. We found the bullet that killed Abelardo appeared to have come from the side of the road where Colombian soldiers and other security forces were located and the bullet found in Abelardo’s body was consistent with the bullets and type of weapons carried by the platoon of soldiers that day. We also found that soldiers fired their weapons into the ground at close range to civilians and soldiers appear to have started the shooting; at no point are soldiers seen ducking for cover during the footage we reviewed. These findings contradict sworn testimonies made by soldiers and public statements by the army. 

Abelardo Liz joins a list of at least fifty two journalists killed in Colombia since 1993 according to the Unesco observatory of Killed Journalists.

The Foundation for Press Freedom (FLIP), which is representing Abelardo Liz’s family, said on Wednesday the UN statement was of “great importance” and highlights the role of the Colombian Army in the fatal shooting and its failure to follow international standards regarding the use of force. It also highlights the lack of progress of investigations into the case, calling on the Colombian government to prioritise this case to ensure justice is served.

“It is regrettable that the Colombian State has remained silent regarding the request, revealing its lack of commitment to this case.”

FLIP said it will continue to work with Abelardo’s family to seek justice in this case.