REPORT No. 136/10 CASE 12.658 MERITS LUIS GONZALO “RICHARD” VÉLEZ RESTREPO AND FAMILY COLOMBIA 1 October 23, 2010 I. SUMMARY 1. On July 29, 2005, the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (hereinafter "the Inter-American Commission", "the Commission", or "the IACHR") received a petition lodged by Mr. Luis Gonzalo Vélez Restrepo - also known as Richard Vélez - and Aracelly Román Amariles (henceforth "the petitioners"), in their own name and representing their children Mateo Vélez Román and Juliana Vélez Román (henceforth "the children" and all together as "the Vélez Román family" or "the petitioners") alleging the responsibility of agents of the Republic of Colombia (henceforth "the State" or "the State of Colombia") for an attack on August 29, 1996 that took place in the Morelia Municipality, Caquetá Department, allegedly carried out by the Colombian National Army against Mr. Luis Gonzalo Vélez Restrepo while he was filming peasants [campesinos] demonstrating against the destruction of a crop of coca leaves. In addition, the petitioners allege that after the attack, and in the context of the respective judicial and disciplinary investigations, Mr. Vélez Restrepo and his family suffered repeated death threats, that on October 6, 1997, Mr. Luis Gonzalo Vélez Restrepo was the victim of an "attempted forced disappearance," and that the State failed in its duty to undertake an adequate investigation of the attacks and the threats received. They also point out that due to these allegations Mr. Vélez Restrepo had to self-censor his work as a journalist and has suffered radical changes in his professional life. Lastly, they point out that given the serious risk he ran in Colombia and the lack of timely action by the State of Colombia, on October 9, 1997, he was obliged to seek asylum in the United States of America. One year later, his family members were granted asylum and were able to travel to the United States. The petitioners point out that in the said country Mr. Vélez had to abandon his profession as a journalist and endure enormous financial and emotional difficulties to be able to maintain his family. 2. The petitioners allege that these facts amount to a violation of Articles 4 (right to life), 5 (right to humane treatment), 7 (right to personal liberty), 11 (right to honor), 13 (right to the freedom of thought and expression), 8 (judicial guarantees) and 25 (judicial protection) of the American Convention on Human Rights (hereinafter the "Convention" or the "American Convention"), in relation to Articles 1.1 and 2 of the Convention. 3. On July 24, 2008, the IACHR approved report No. 47/08, declaring the petition admissible in relation to Articles 5 (right to humane treatment), 13 (right to the freedom of thought and expression), 17.1 (protection of the family), 19 (rights of the child), 22.1 (right to free movement and residence), 8 (judicial guarantees) and 25 (judicial protection), in relation to Articles 1.1 and 2 of the American Convention. 4. With regard to the merits of the case, the State of Colombia alleged that it had duly investigated and punished those responsible for the attack on August 29, 1996 against Mr. Vélez and that the petitioners have not proved the existence of the alleged harassment after this attack and much less that it was carried out by state agents. As a result, the State denied the violations alleged by the petitioners. 1 In accordance with the provisions of Article 17.2 of the Commission's Rules, Commissioner Rodrigo Escobar Gil, of Colombian nationality, did not take part in either the deliberations or the decision in the present case.