Claudia Julieta Duque

Claudia Julieta Duque is a correspondent for the Colombian human rights Internet radio station Radio Nizkor and a former researcher for the José Alvear Restrepo Lawyers’ Collective (CCAJAR). In her 22 years as a journalist she has investigated and reported on issues of forced disappearance, forced recruitment of children by legal and illegal armed actors, the impact of impunity and the right to justice, and infiltration of paramilitary groups in government agencies. She has also been following the 1999 murder of journalist Jaime Garzón.[1]

Interview with Duque: I don´t dare call the coming future “peace” (July 2016)

PBI Coffee Break: “Journalism in Colombia is becoming more complacent” (July 2016)

Claudia Julieta Duque brigadista PBI

DAS Wiretapping

Duque is one of the journalists that have been extensively watched by the President’s Administrative Department of Security (DAS). A report by the Prosecutor General’s Technical Investigation Unit (CTI) reveals a number of cases of espionage and threats made against Duque by the DAS. These revelations coincide with reports that Duque has submitted to the Foundation for Freedom of the Press (FLIP) over the past several years.[2]

Duque began receiving threats in 2001, the year she began working with the José Alvear Restrepo Lawyers’ Collective (CCAJAR) on an investigation into the murder of journalist Jaime Garzón that occurred in August 1999. Her work following the Garzón case led her to conclude that DAS agents allegedly were involved in a cover-up in order to divert the Prosecutor General’s investigation into Garzón’s murder. Since then, the threats have intensified and she has been forced to leave the country on several occasions. Moreover, Duque began to notice that different cars and taxis were constantly monitoring her whereabouts.

Because Claudia Julieta Duque recorded the numbers of these vehicles’ license plates, she eventually discovered that some of them had followed her on previous occasions.

According to a CTI report, the information seized from the DAS contains a complete log of Duque’s activities during different time periods including specific dates, times, places and people she had met with. There was also a six-page report containing Duque’s biographical details, work experience, documentation of the complaints that Duque had submitted about her protection measures, and communications about her from 24 February and 22 November 2004. Furthermore, CTI also found a memo in which the DAS requested carrying out counterintelligence work due to a possible leakage of information on Duque and a list of license plates that had followed her.

Claudia Julieta Duque’s name also appeared in espionage reports on the José Alvear Restrepo Lawyers’ Collective due to the work she had done with the organisation. The special group within the DAS, known as G-3, had carried out intelligence work on CCAJAR which was known as “Operation Transmilenio.” Inside Operation Transmilenio documents there was evidence of interception and monitoring of 14 people belonging to the Lawyers’ Collective, especially CCAJAR’s president, Alirio Uribe Muñoz. There was biographical data, phone numbers, addresses, emails, photocopies of identification documents, immigration records, financial information from reporting centres (Data Credit, CIFIN), background checks, and information on the parents, siblings, spouses and children of those being monitored. There were also photographs of their relatives, including Claudia Julieta Duque’s daughter.

Duque had a security detail from the governmental Protection Program and she had previously expressed her suspicions that some of her bodyguards were spying on her. Duque finally confirmed this fact when she learned of internal reports that showed that her bodyguards informed the DAS about her activities and made false allegations against her. Although her bodyguards were switched several times at Duque’s request, these practices continued. In addition, the bodyguards reported her alleged misuse of the security scheme and the Ministry of Interior decided to suspend her protection measures.

In October 2007, journalist Claudia Julieta Duque filed a lawsuit against the Ministry of Interior requesting that her security measures be reinstated. The case ruling ordered that the Ministry re-implement her security measures.

In December 2008, the Constitutional Court reviewed two previous requests that ordered the Ministry of Interior to restore Duque’s security measures. In the ruling, the Court not only upheld both previous decisions, but also established jurisprudence on various fundamental issues associated with the Protection Program and the security measures for journalists. In December 2009 Duque corroborated information from the Prosecutor General’s office stating that the DAS had been behind threats she received in 2004 that forced her into exile.

In 2009, 16 renowned journalists[3] were the targets of emails interception, wiretapping and illegal surveillance by DAS agents. The victims include Alejandro Santos, director of the magazine Semana; Julio Sánchez Cristo, the director of the national radio station W Radio; Hollman Morris, journalist and news producer for Contravía on Channel One; and Duque, correspondent for the Colombian human rights radio station Radio Nizkor.[4]

Chronology of DAS agents’ convictions for the psychological torture of Duque

From 2012 onwards, Colombian courts convicted several former members of the Department of Administrative Security (DAS) for the psychological torture of journalist Claudia Julieta Duque, her young daughter and other members of her family. The torture began in 2001 after Duque published the results of her investigation into the 1999 murder of political satirist Jaime Garzon. The DAS agents had taken part in a cover-up aimed at derailing the investigation into Garzon’s murder by the Public Prosecutor.

It is the first case in the world where the criminal justice system has been able to identify those responsible for the crime of psychological torture in its own right, not in relation to other crimes.  It is the first time a case of that nature is based on the documents from the intelligence agency which carried out the crime, demonstrating the modus operandi of Alvaro Uribe’s administration against human rights defenders and journalists.  This makes it the paradigmatic case about counter-intelligence techniques being used for political and social control.[5]

In 2012, Duque brought a claim against former president Alvaro Uribe for aggravated defamation for having publicly associated her with the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC).[6] In January 2014, former assistant director of operations at the DAS, Hugo Daney Ortiz, was found guilty and sentenced to eleven years in prison.[7] In April 2014, former DAS counter-intelligence officer, Jorge Armando Rubiano, admitted having persecuted and psychologically tortured Duque.[8]

In October 2014, the Public Prosecutor’s Analysis and Context Unit charged the DAS officials Jose Miguel Narvaez, Giancarlo Auque and Enrique Ariza for aggravated torture.  In December of the same year, the first conviction was ordered for the psychological torture of Duque, her daughter and other members of her family. [9] In October 2015, the DAS’ former director of intelligence, Carlos Alberto Arzayus Guerrero, who was also the head of the internal control office, was sentenced to six years in prison and was the subject of the first investigations into Duque’s harassment. [10]

In April 2017, the United States deported former DAS head of intelligence Enrique Ariza. The former agent was deported thanks to the actions of the Human Rights Violators and War Crimes Unit of the Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s Homeland Security Investigations, a Unit whose purpose is to avoid foreign citizens involved in grave human rights violation, including war crimes and torture, finding refuge in the United States and avoiding justice in their own countries.  The Unit heard of Ariza’s case in 2014 at Duque and her lawyer’s request, with PBI’s assistance.  On 30 March 2016, the immigration judge found against the former head of the DAS, who appealed the decision, but last week the decision was upheld.  Ariza was also convicted in November 2012 and sentenced to 105 months’ prison for aggravated conspiracy to commit a crime, unlawful violation of communications, and unlawful use of transmission and reception equipment in the infamous DAS wiretapping scandal. The sentence was confirmed in March 2014.

In May 2017, the Bogota Superior Tribunal upheld the decision of the Second Specialist Criminal Judge which denied requests to dismiss the case against Ronal Rivera Rodriguez and Rodolfo Medina Aleman for the crime of psychologically torturing Duque [11]  Currently, three former DAS officials implicated in the journalist’s case are on the run from the law: former head of counter-intelligence Rodolfo Medina Aleman; former head of intelligence Giancarlo Aunque de Silvestri; and former detective of the G-3 Strategic Intelligence Group Juan Carlos Sastoque, who is exiled in the United States with an outstanding Interpol blue notice.[12]

But even during the years that these convictions were handed down, Duque continued to be the target of surveillance and be followed, which she reported to the authorities, and which have caused her to request additional security measures from the National Protection Unit.[13]

Protection Measures

In 2003 Claudia Julieta Duque was included in the Protection Program for journalists run by the Ministry of Interior due to the grave state of her security situation. The physical protection measures include a security door and security cameras at her home, an armoured car and an Avantel telephone.[14]

Due to her work and the high profile of the cases she covers, the continuous attacks forced her into exile abroad three times between 2004 and 2008.

In December 2009, the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) issued precautionary security measures for her and her daughter.

Risks, threats and attacks 2015-2016


Duque received several awards for her journalistic work, which include

  • Reporters Without Borders Award, Sweden section, 2010
  • Journalistic Courage Award, International Women’s Foundation (USA)
  • Hilaria Alpi Prize (Italy)
  • In July 2010, she was named an honorary member of the British and Irish trade union of journalists.

International accompaniment

PBI has accompanied Claudia Julieta Duque since 2010.

“I think Peace Brigades plays a key role in saving the lives of those of us who do not believe in guns, those of us who do work that is frowned upon in this country. It is a guarantee for daily life; I feel very safe when I’m with Peace Brigades, they are like guardian angels to me. I really feel that the daily accompaniment lets me continue to pursue my work the way I do it; I feel much calmer.” Claudia Julieta Duque


[2] The information is based on “Interceptaciones y seguimientos ilegales: grave intimidación al periodismo colombiano Informe sobre el estado de la libertad de prensa en Colombia en 2009,” Foundation for Freedom of the Press (FLIP), 2010
[3] According to FLIP, so far there is evidence that at least 16 journalists have been intercepted.
[4] “Attacks on the Press 2009 – A Worldwide Survey by the Committee to Protect Journalists”, Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ), New York, February 2010
[5] Frontline Defenders: Caso Claudia Julieta Duque: un precedente mundial por la búsqueda de justicia, 1 March 2016
[6] Frontline Defenders: Historia del caso: Claudia Julieta Duque
[7] El Tiempo, Exsubdirector de Operaciones del DAS, condenado por tortura sicológica, 18 December 2014
[8] Ccajar: Jorge Armando Rubiano, ex funcionario del DAS, aceptó cargos de tortura agravada y pidió sentencia anticipada en el caso de la periodista Claudia Julieta Duque, 8 April 2014
[9] ¡Pacifiasta!: Así ha operado la justicia en el caso de la periodista Claudia Julieta Duque, 3  March 2016
[10] El Espectador: Condenan a seis años de prisión a exfuncionario del DAS por tortura psicológica a periodista, 1 October 2015
[11] W Radio: En firme proceso contra exdetectives del DAS por tortura a la periodista Claudia Duque, 17 May 2017
[12] Equipo Nizkor: Deportado exdirector de inteligencia acusado de tortura a Claudia Julieta Duque, 24 April 2017
[13] PBI: Claudia Julieta Duque: 2015 – 2016, 28 September 2016
[14] The Ministry of Interior’s Protection Program was established in 1997 to serve at-risk populations such as human rights defenders, trade unionists and journalists. The program is headed by the Minister of Interior and are part of several public entities: the vice presidency, the police, DAS, Prosecutor General’s office, Inspector General’s Office and Human Rights Ombudsman, among others, and civil society representatives attending as guests.

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