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.

Select target paragraph3