Attorney General classifies psychological torture and persecution of Colombian journalist as crime against humanity

The case of Claudia Julieta Duque, who was persecuted and tortured psychologically in 2001 and 2004, has been classified as a crime against humanity by the Attorney General of the Nation.

The agency issued an indictment against the former deputy director of the now-defunct Department of Administrative Security (DAS), Emiro Rojas Granados (2002-2005), and Néstor Pachón Bermúdez, former intelligence detective of the same organization, according to a release from site Equipo Nizkor.

According to El Colombiano, Prosecutor 189 of the Specialized Directorate against Human Rights Violations said in its indictment that it initiated proceedings against Rojas Granados “for crimes of aggravated conspiracy to commit a crime and aggravated torture against the journalist, who was persecuted and subjected to serious acts of psychological torture for her investigation of the murder of journalist Jaime Garzón Forero, which occurred in 1999.”

In that sense, the Prosecutor decreed the case as not subject to statutory limitation.

According to Equipo Nizkor, this is the biggest advance in the case and the first of the DAS to be recognized as a crime against humanity under international criminal law.

In an interview that Duque gave El Espectador in 2012, she said that in 2001 she was abducted for a few hours, and later harassed until forced to resort to exile. Outside the country, she learned that one of the license plates of the cars belonged to the DAS. The journalist had denounced in that same year that the DAS was behind the diversion of the investigations of the crime against journalist Garzón Forero, assassinated by hitmen on Aug. 13, 1999, El Espectador reported.

As a consequence of Duque’s journalistic reports, Rojas Granados is also currently facing an investigation for his alleged participation in the hoax that obstructed the criminal investigation of Garzón’s murder, Equipo Nizkor published.

Pachón Bermúdez, the former intelligence detective of the DAS who will also be called to trial, is accused of being the person who followed the journalist between the months of July and August 2001, after she was abducted, El Colombiano said. Duque identified Pachón Bermúdez as the person that watched, harassed and followed her during that time.

In addition to Garzón's death in 2004, Duque began investigating the infiltration of paramilitaries in the government agencies and coordinated an international meeting of 300 human rights defenders. "One of the DAS folders on me has the title 'Against the DAS'. It is clear, then, that this security agency considered me its enemy," Duque told El Espectador in 2012.

The prosecutor has also declared the murders of journalists Guillermo Cano (director of El Espectador, December 1987), Eustorgio Colmenares (director of La Opinión de Cúcuta, March 1993), Jaime Garzón (August 1999), and also the kidnapping, torture and rape of Jineth Bedoya (May 2000), as crimes against humanity, Radio Nizkor reported.

Note from the editor: This story was originally published by the Knight Center’s blog Journalism in the Americas, the predecessor of LatAm Journalism Review.