The Inter-American Court of Human Rights Awards Resounding Victory to GW Law Clinic Clients


Raúl Hernandez, the Vélez family's local counsel in Colombia,
Professor Arturo Carrillo, and Carlos Zelada, IHR Clinic
legal consultant on the case, litigate their clients' case before
the Inter-American Court of Human Rights in Costa Rica this
past February.  (photo by Agencia EFE).

The Inter-American Court of Human Rights this month handed down its judgment in Vélez Restrepo and Family v. Colombia — a case of serious human rights violations suffered by journalist Richard Vélez, his wife, Sara Román, and their two children, Mateo and Juliana.

Mr. Vélez, a TV cameraman, was beaten unconscious in August of 1996 by soldiers while reporting on human rights violations committed by the military during a mass protest in rural Colombia. For a year thereafter, he and his family endured a campaign of threats and intimidation by state agents seeking to prevent Mr. Vélez from seeking justice for the abuse he suffered at the hands of the Colombian military. A failed attempt to kidnap him in October 1997 led to forced exile first for Mr. Vélez and then his family, each of whom received political asylum in the United States.

In its decision of issued in early October, the Inter-American Court found Colombia directly responsible for all the abuses alleged, including the persecution and threats that culminated in the attempt to kidnap Mr. Vélez. It found serious violations of Mr. Vélez'  rights to humane treatment, freedom of expression, freedom of movement and residence, family, and due process. The Court also found that Colombia had violated Ms. Román's rights to humane treatment, movement and residence, family and due process; Mateo and Juliana's rights were similarly transgressed. As a result, the Court ordered a reparations package worth over $300,000 of compensation for the material and moral harm suffered by the family members, including some attorney's fees.


Professor Carrillo with clients
Richard Vélez and Sara Román after
the February hearing before the Court.


"This is a resounding victory for our clients," said Professor Arturo Carrillo, director of the International Human Rights Clinic, which has litigated the case since 2005.  "We prevailed on all major points of law and fact and the Vélez family's account of their ordeal was wholly vindicated by the Court."

Funding for the litigation was provided by Microsoft as part of GW Law's Global Internet Freedom and Human Rights Project.

Please click this link to view the full judgment in Spanish.

For additional background on this case, please read this GW Law news item