A Colombian Journalist, an Order of Execution, and a Silent President

by Laura VanVliet    /  October 13, 2011  / No comments

Colombian journalist Claudia Duque

Colombian journalist and human rights activist Claudia Julieta Duque has been awaiting a response to a letter she sent on September 14, 2011 to recently- elected President Juan Manuel Santos, calling for an investigation of a threat of violence against her issued from within Colombian intelligence. Duque has suffered persecution since 1995 for investigating child abductions, the murders of two journalists, and human rights violations from within the Colombian intelligence system. Serious threats and actions against her began in 2001 when she was investigating the 1999 death of journalist Jaime Garzón Forero. She claimed his murder to have been organized from within the Colombian Administrative Department of Security (DAS), which was intended to protect the country from terrorism and drug-trafficking. In the past three years the DAS has come under fire by the Columbian attorney general’s office for several scandals, including murder, criminal association with paramilitary groups, and the wiretapping of journalists, magistrates, and humanitarian organizations.

On August 21 of this year,  Duque published a co-written article in the Washington Post regarding the DAS scandals, implicating the purportedly unwitting US government—whose funding, technology, and CIA training, the article states, were used to carry out spying operations and smear campaigns—and especially former Colombian President Álvaro Uribe (in office from 2002-2010), who allegedly directed these campaigns. Uribe publicly denounced Duque the next day, claiming her to be a “terrorist sympathizer.”

Duque, undeterred by years of experience with abduction, wiretapping, death threats,  and plans of attack against her and her daughter… has continued to work against corruption and for human rights.

In June DAS deputy director José Miguel Narváez was sentenced for the plot and murder of Garzón, previously attributed in 2004 to paramilitary leader Carlos Castaño (May 16, 1965 – April 16, 2004), until it was revealed that they had conspired together. On September 14, DAS chief Jorge Noguera was also convicted of abuse of authority, murder, and criminal association (with paramilitary groups). He was sentenced to 25 years in prison and a 20-year ban on holding public office. Several other arrests and inquiries were also conducted within the department. President Santos has claimed that the DAS would be shut down this season, and the United States embassy said in April 2010 that funding would be redirected to Colombian national police instead.

Duque, undeterred by years of experience with abduction, wiretapping, phone calls of screaming, funeral music, and death threats,  plans of attack against her and her daughter, betrayal by her own official bodyguards, and periods of fleeing the country, has continued to work against corruption and for human rights (“Claudia Julieta Duque Has the Courage to Speak”).

Duque currently works for Radio Nizkor, an organization which is dedicated to the protection and promotion of human rights. She has had the support of various organizations for journalists, and in 2009 she benefited from the request for protection made by the Inter-American Commission for Human Rights. But as of yet, Duque has not received a response to the letter she sent to President Santos about the recent threats to her life.

In October 2010 Duque was awarded for Courage in Journalism by the International Women’s Media Foundation. At the interview for the ceremony, when asked “How has your work contributed to freedom of the Press of Colombia?” She answered, “I investigated the case of a colleague that was murdered. The sentence that we achieved against Carlos Castaño,…was the first time in Colombian history that the murderer of an intellectual author and journalist was sentenced, and after that more sentences have come, so I guess it worked. I also help, or try to help, many colleagues that are under threat …I try to speak out on their behalf. But I am not the right person to answer if it has been worthy or not.”

You can see the full interview here:

Send a scripted letter to President Santos on Duque’s behalf.

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