The Inter American Press Association has voiced concern at a statute of limitations being applied this week in two cases of murder of Colombian journalists and called on the authorities to take appropriate action to prevent the crimes remaining unpunished.
Julio Daniel Chaparro, a 29-year-old reporter, and Enrique Torres, a photographer, 39, both from the Bogotá newspaper El Espectador, were killed April 24, 1991. Their cases, having gone unpunished for 20 years, are subject to a statute of limitations that expires this week, even though Congress passed a reform on Dec. 29 last year increasing the statute period from 20 to 30 years – but without making it retroactive.
Gonzalo Marroquín, president of the Guatemala City, Guatemala, newspaper Siglo 21, declared, “ We view with concern how the statute of limitations applied in cases of such crimes is feeding a vicious circle of impunity.” He said he hoped “the authorities can take appropriate action to prevent these and other cases from becoming an indelible stain on press freedom in the country.” He is president of the organization.
In addition to the murder of Chaparro and Torres it is also 20 years since fellow journalists Carlos Julio Rodríguez, José Libardo Méndez, Arsenio Hoyos Lozano and Rafael Solano Rochero were killed.
Referring to the action that could be taken Robert Rivard, chairman of the organization’s Committee on Freedom of the Press and Information said, “We join the call by other organizations, such as Colombia’s Foundation for Press Freedom, that the Attorney General’s Office declare the murders of Chaparro and Torres as crimes against humanity.” He is editor of the San Antonio Express-News in Texas,
As a precedent, a ruling was issued July 2 last year by the Attorney General’s Office that the 1986 murder of Guillermo Cano, the editor of El Espectador, be treated as a crime against humanity, and thus not subject to any statute of limitations. The Office argued that the Cano slaying was part of a systematic plan of the Medellín drug cartel, headed by Pablo Escobar.
The current request by teh Inter American Press Association is based on the argument that the murders of Chaparro and Torres are part of “systemic and generalized actions against El Espectador.”
At the time of their death the two were investigating the consequences of what was known as the Segovia massacre in the town of that name in Antioquia province which occurred in 1988 and in which paramilitaries shot and killed 40 people.