Colombian journalist Claudia Duque renounces criminal proceedings in case for her psychological torture; denounces impunity

Considering that Colombia’s judiciary currently “constitutes a scenario of revictimization through the silencing, delay and verbal and legal attacks of defense lawyers and the accused,” journalist Claudia Julieta Duque announced that she will suspend her participation in the criminal proceedings in the case for her persecution and psychological torture. Her decision comes exactly 15 years after the crime took place.

Claudia Julieta Duque (Twitter)

Claudia Julieta Duque. (Twitter).

Duque's decision was announced through a statement from human rights organization Equipo Nizkor, of which the journalist is a representative in Colombia, and in which it was said that the only exception will be a hearing on Nov. 26. At that hearing, there will be a decision regarding an action the journalist filed against a judge’s decision last July that prohibited the journalist from publicly giving opinions about her own case. At the time, Duque denounced the decision as censorship.

Although the statement recognizes justice as “key to the psychological and emotional recovery" of the journalist, Equipo Nizkor warns "about the implementation of new maneuvers to achieve the closure of the criminal procedure and the forced silencing of Claudia Julieta Duque.”

It said, “some few advances” that have occurred during these 15 years have been “used by the Colombian State to excuse its own impunity.”

In 2004, the psychological torture against Duque began due to her journalistic work, especially her investigation of the murder of journalist and humorist Jaime Garzón in 1999. In her journalistic investigations, Duque linked former officials of the now extinct intelligence department of the country known as DAS (Administrative Department of Security) in the planning and execution of the assassination of Garzón. Regarding this crime, in 2018, a former deputy director of the DAS was sentenced to 30 years in prison for “determining” Garzón’s murder.

Although Duque denounced to the Prosecutor's Office what had happened to her since that moment, it was only in 2013 when the entity ordered the arrest of some former DAS officials. In her case, eight former officials are on trial, three have been convicted after accepting charges, one more is being investigated and there is an investigation order for a former DAS director and former president and current senator Álvaro Uribe Vélez, the statement said.

In 2017, her crime was classified as a crime against humanity by the Attorney General's Office of Colombia. Since that date, “various decisions plagued by irregularities confirm the denial of justice to Claudia Julieta Duque as a new strategy against her, which even threatens prosecution against her,” said the recent statement detailing all these decisions.

Some of them are the archiving of the process against the former director of the DAS, Jorge Noguera, despite the evidence allegedly against him in the case file; as well as the release of some of those implicated due to expiration of terms and censorship that prevents her from talking about her case.

In October 2018, the journalist presented her case against the Colombian State before the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights.

In the recent statement, the journalist also rejected the jurisdiction of the Special Jurisdiction for Peace (JEP) – the justice system created after the peace agreement between the Colombian government and the FARC guerrillas – to investigate several of the people investigated in her case.

According to the statement, the crimes against Duque did not fall within the framework of the Colombian armed conflict.

For this reason, she and her lawyer will go to the JEP to reject its claim for jurisdiction.

Regarding the journalist’s decision, the Foundation for Press Freedom (FLIP) of Colombia said via Twitter: “The FLIP rejects impunity in the case and makes a call to the @FiscaliaCol (prosecutor) and the judges to guarantee access to justice and truth in the case. Freedom of the press also depends on crimes against journalists being punished.”

The Equipo Nizkor statement says that Duque “will persist in her complaints regarding the impunity that surrounds, not only her case, but the vast majority of human rights violations in Colombia, and will disregard the order of the second judge to be silenced.”

“In any case, giving up criminal proceedings does not mean that you morally give up fighting for justice,” the statement concludes.