Journalist Claudia Julieta Duque presents her case against Colombia before the IACHR

Due to the various attacks against journalist Claudia Julieta Duque and her daughter, María Alejandra Gómez, since 2001, the women presented their case against Colombia before the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) this Oct. 1, according to the Foundation for Press Freedom (FLIP, for its acronym in Spanish).

The complaint, delivered by Duque’s daughter on behalf of herself and her mother, tells how they have been victims of abduction, threats, psychological torture, persecution and exile for years, FLIP added. Most of these remain unpunished despite the fact that there are open investigations.

“The reason why we waited so long [to arrive before the IACHR] is because at some point I did come to believe that there was an option for justice in the country and I decided to wait for that justice to act, but that justice was paralyzed,” Duque told the Knight Center.

The persecution against Duque began in 2001 when she was investigating the murder of journalist Jaime Garzón Forero, which occurred in 1999 in Bogotá. In her journalistic investigations, Duque linked agents of the now-extinct intelligence service of the country, DAS (Administrative Department of Security), to the planning and execution of Garzón's murder.

In 2003 and 2004, Duque denounced officials of the DAS saying that she was a victim of persecutions and threats. The threats included her daughter as "the object and method of psychological torture," Duque explained. However, it was not until 2013 that the Prosecutor's Office issued a detention order against seven former DAS officials for the crimes of aggravated psychological torture.

“The criminal process - with the exception of three convictions for acceptance of charges - has been paralyzed in recent years despite the abundant evidence,” the FLIP said. According to what was published, several of the ex officials denounced currently hold public office, “one is free due to expiration of terms and the other due to procedural irregularities that the prosecution refused to correct, while others who are on trial are fugitives from justice.”

According to Duque, there are currently eight people on trial, but only four have been captured.

“Apart from that there are others who are being investigated. Particularly there is one who is being investigated, but he is in asylum in the United States, and the Prosecutor's Office has not taken any decision against him. That is, there is an arrest warrant, he is a fugitive, but there has been no call to trial,” Duque said. “The Prosecutor's Office [also] has refused to call to testify and to link other people who are allegedly involved in the attacks.”

Additionally, there are new threats and harassment against Duque and Gómez because they have sought justice in their case, added FLIP, which has assisted Duque for more than a decade.

This was the reason why Gómez, who was a minor when the attacks started, decided to work on the complaint against Colombia for more than a year now in her capacity as a lawyer.

“For me it is a vote of confidence towards her abilities, to which she is very capable and can take this demand forward. And from her to me is another example of that love and affection, of loyalty and support for my struggle, our struggle,” Duque explained. “It's very nice for me to see that girl turned professional, backing her mother in this whole fight. It is also a very nice message that I protected her to the fullest and now that she is out of the country and that she is doing her masters and is developing as a woman and a professional, she decides to face and take charge of her own fight for justice.”

“As FLIP, we expect the Commission to attend to the plaintiffs' request in search of definite justice,” the organization said in a statement.

In 2009, the IACHR granted precautionary measures in favor of Duque and Gómez, which allowed them to request that their case be given priority treatment, according to FLIP.

In October 2017, the Attorney General of Colombia declared the psychological torture and persecution against Duque as a crime against humanity. This decision means the crimes are not subject to statutory limitation.

The DAS disappeared in 2011 after the then-President Juan Manuel Santos signed a decree for its dissolution as a result of the so-called 'chuzadas' scandal, that is, illegal telephone interceptions by the DAS of journalists, politicians, magistrates of the Supreme Court, among other personalities of the country.

After inspecting the DAS facilities, the Prosecutor's Office found the document “Manual to threaten” whose existence Duque had already denounced. With this document, officials were instructed on how to intimidate the journalist with details of where to make calls, how to speak, how to get to a place to call, among other information.

The Knight Center contacted the Public Prosecutor's office for comment in the case, but did not receive a reply in time for publication.