Colombian journalist receives threats as court case against her torturers advances

By Samantha Badgen

Reporters Without Borders denounced that Colombian investigative journalist, Claudia Julieta Duque, continues to receive threats as her court case advances against the agents of the country's Department of Security (DAS) who, in the last 10 years, have followed, psychologically tortured and kidnapped her.

RSF said the threats had also reached Duque’s family members and her attorney, who fears that the prosecutor in charge of the case will bow to external pressures, since there are DAS members who still have close relationships to power.

The aggressions against Duque began in 2001, when she investigated the death of Jaime Garzón, also journalist, who was killed in Bogotá in 1999. Duque had been able to prove that members of the DAS were involved in many of the attacks against her.

The harassment has persisted since the Radio Nizkor journalist began legal proceedings against those who kidnapped and assaulted her more than 10 years ago. The case had its first major breakthrough recently when Jorge Armando Rubiano Jiménez, former deputy director of Technological Development at DAS, pleaded guilty to charges of “aggravated torture.”

“We call on the Colombia authorities to guarantee the safety of Duque and her family and to ensure that the justice system is able to function in an independent manner, so that those responsible for both the current threats and Duque’s abduction and torture in 2001 are punished,” said Camille Soulier, the head of RSF's Americas desk.

Even though Duque began the legal proceedings in 2004, it wasn’t until 2011 that the National Human Rights Attorney decided to open a formal investigation against seven former DAS workers. In that time the reporter was forced into exile three times for attacks suffered in 2001 and 2009, RSF said.

“Duque and her lawyer were received by the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights on 26 March to discuss her case with Colombian officials, including representatives of the prosecutor-general’s office. Duque told Reporters Without Borders that these representatives showed no interest in taking charge of the investigation,” the press release said.

In September 2011, Duque asked Colombian president Juan Manuel Santos to investigate an order to attack her, which she had recently become aware of, and since then the threats have not ceased.

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.