Prosecutor declares 1990 murder of Colombian journalist a crime against humanity

On Feb. 24, the Prosecutor’s Office 40 of the Specialized Directorate Against Human Rights Violations in Colombia declared the murders of journalist Silvia Duzán and three members of the Association of Farm Workers of Carare (ATCC, for its acronym in Spanish) as crimes against humanity, according to the Foundation for Press Freedom (FLIP).

The massacre took place 30 years ago on Feb. 26, 1990, in the municipality of Cimitarra, in the department of Santander, Colombia.

Duzán was murdered while making a documentary about the peaceful resistance of the ATCC for English TV Channel 4.

The prosecutor's office, according to the FLIP note, acknowledged that the massacre took place in a context of widespread and systematic attack by members of paramilitary groups against the civilian population.

“The FLIP recognizes the importance of the declaration as a crime against humanity because it is an advance in the fight against impunity in the case, since this declaration has as its main effect the imprescriptibility of the events,” meaning there are no time limits on when the case can be prosecuted, the entity wrote in a statement. However, FLIP said that the decision is late, because it was only made two days before the 30th anniversary of the crime, and that there is still no significant progress in the investigation and those responsible haven’t been punished.

“The FLIP calls on the prosecutor’s office to carry out a serious, impartial investigation and within a reasonable time that will overcome the scenario of impunity that has prevailed in this crime for thirty years,” the statement concluded.

The prosecutor’s office also acknowledged that the homicide had a serious impact on the exercise of freedom of expression in the country. According to the newspaper El Espectador, the institution said the crime had a triple negative impact: it violates the victims' right to speak out, “generates an effect of silence and fear in the victim's colleagues; and, finally, it violates the collective rights to seek and receive information.”

Silvia Duzán was the sister of María Jimena Duzán, current journalist for Revista Semana. María Jimena wrote a book, the result of her journalistic investigation into her sister's death, called "Mi viaje al infierno" (My trip to hell).

In an interview with Revista Semana in 2015, María Jimena says that the murders were committed in a busy bar, and the entire village witnessed the crimes. “"(...) The massacre was done in front of the Army battalion, in a bar called La Tata, which was full of people on a holiday Friday. Everyone knew who shot and who were the ones who protected the murderers in their getaway."

Semana prepared a special article on the 30 years of the massacre, with excerpts from María Jimena's book and a video, in which she recounts details of the murder. In the video, the journalist says she still seeks answers to the crime. “I do want an answer. I do want to be told why they killed the farmers and my sister,” she said.

Silvia and María Jimena’s father, Lucio Duzán, was a columnist for El Espectador. As María Jimena recalls, in a special on the 25 years of Silvia's death, published by El Espectador, the two went every Saturday with their father to the newspaper in Bogotá. While he delivered his texts, they looked in awe at the presses.

María Jimena, who has been the victim of recent lawsuits and death threats for her journalistic work, said on Twitter this month that she misses her sister more and more.