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Claudia Julieta Duque, Radio Nizkor correspondent in Colombia, facing a grave threat to her safety.

Background and Context

1) On 23 October 2008 the Third Review Chamber of the Constitutional Court issued a judgement in a case for injunctive relief brought by Claudia Julieta Duque against the Interior and Justice Ministry and the Department of Administrative Security (DAS). This important legal decision was the reason for our communiqué of 9 December 2008 in which we said, inter alia, with reference to the decision:

    "Equipo Nizkor does not normally make public the security issues that affect our collaborators, but in this case, on 11th. April 2008, we revealed the letters addressed to the Director of Human Rights of the Home Office, Rafael Bustamante, and to the current director of the Administrative Department of Security (DAS, the Colombian secret police), Joaquín Polo Montalvo, in which Claudia Julieta Duque renounced her security scheme, and we added a brief commentary on the matter.

    However, in light of the contents of judgement T-1037/08 in the injunctive relief (Acción de tutela) filed by Claudia Julieta Duque Orrego against the Interior and Justice Ministry, and the Administrative Department of Security (DAS) - which occurs within the process of revision of the judgements adopted by the Administrative Tribunal of Cundinamarca, Third Section, Sub-Section "A" and the Chamber of Administrative Affairs, Fourth Section, of the State Council - given that this establishes a precedent which affects both journalists and human rights defenders at risk, we have decided to make our opinion public."

2) On 13 August 2009 the Administrative Tribunal for Contentious Matters of Cundinamarca, Third Section, sub-section A, issued a judgement for a claim of contempt brought by Claudia Julieta Duque in light of the failure by agents of the Colombian State to comply with the decision of the Constitutional Court, which had taken measures against certain State entities.

3) On 18 June 2009 we issued another communiqué concerning the actions of a counterintelligence group of the DAS known by the symbol G-3 in which we expressly stated:

    "The importance of the documents which have been made public is that they are irrefutable evidence of the persecution and harassment endured by those who directly or indirectly came within the ambit of the counterintelligence operations run by specialists of the Colombian War Navy and financed by a foreign state. The state is not identified in the documents.

    One preliminary conclusion is that the military and civilian general staff who directed the said operations received express orders to incorporate human rights organisations, investigative journalists and superior court judges in their war plans and therefore they were to be considered "targets"; some were even specific "objectives" as in the case of our own correspondent in Colombia, Claudia Julieta Duque, who was the victim of this kind of treatment from 2001 until at least 2008.

    The Constitutional Court's response to an action for injunctive relief (Acción de Tutela) filed by Claudia Julieta Duque was to issue a judgement which expressly acknowledged the rights on which she could rely, including that of freedom of information in her work as a journalist and as a member of an international human rights organization. The judgement ordered the DAS to surrender all the documents in its files relating to her case.

    The DAS did not comply with the judgement and in two letters denied the existence of any such documents in its files. Today we know that there are hundreds of documents in the possession of the Prosecutor's Office and that they were handed over by the same entity which denied their existence.

    The counter-intelligence operations form part of what is considered "offensive intelligence" and their aim is to eliminate "objectives" using all kinds of human, technical and military support. As these cases have established, they entail the reconstruction of the entire social and family network of the victims of the persecution.

    There is no doubt that the consequence of this type of clandestine and illegal operation is the manipulation of the facts, the alteration of social systems and the destruction of those organizations which are considered "targets". Given the period of time they have persisted - more than ten years - they affect the families and the children of the victims and compel the organisations involved to take courses of action which they would not otherwise do if they were free from DAS counterintelligence harassment."

Subsequent events:

4) Given the existence of reasonable evidence, we are able to state that Radio Nizkor's correspondent in Colombia, who is also a member of Equipo Nizkor, continues to be the subject of systematic surveillance and therefore we have no indication that the Government has dismantled the counterintelligence system whose existence has been legally substantiated and which identified Claudia Julieta Duque as a target from 2001.

5) The legal evidence allows us to state that the Colombian Government has acted in a way which both NATO and US military manuals would technically describe as "operations of information" and/or "counterintelligence".

The difference between these two types of operation is that, without doubt, counterintelligence operations against a civilian population and, in particular, against certain sociological and/or anthropological sectors thereof as "targets", are criminal acts which are irrefutably crimes against humanity, given that they are illegal operations in form and substance and constitute systematic and widespread persecution.

In view of its mere existence and the elements of proof available, we can state that the parameters used by the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia in order to establish the individual criminal responsibility of the members of a "Joint Criminal Enterprise" are applicable to those responsible for this type of systematic illegal operation in Colombia. The criminal organization involved in the present case acted against at least 400 individuals, as well as their professional, family and other personal relations.

For a clearer understanding of what we are saying, the following is the definition provided in the US manual designed specifically for these types of operations the "U.S. Army Counterinsurgency Handbook" |1| 2007 edition, by the US Department of Defense. Lt. General David Howell Petraeus, currently head of US Central Command and formerly in command of the Multinational Task Force deployed in Iraq was responsible for revision of the Handbook:


    (joint) Information gathered and activities conducted to protect against espionage, other intelligence activities, sabotage, or assassinations conducted by or on behalf of foreign governments or elements thereof, foreign organizations, or foreign persons, or international terrorist activities. (JP 1-02)
    (Army) Counterintelligence counters or neutralizes intelligences collection efforts through collection, counterintelligence investigations, operations, analysis and production, and functional and technical services. Counterintelligence includes all actions taken to detect, identify, exploit, and neutralize the multidisciple intelligence activities of friends, competitors, opponents, adversaries, and enemies... (FM 2-0)"

    "information operations

    (joint) The integrated employment of the core capabilities of electronic warfare, computer network operations, psycological operations, military deception, and operations security, in concert with specified supporting and relted capabilities, to influence, disrupt, corrupt, or usurp adversarial human and automated decision making while protecting our own. (JP 1-02) (Army) The employment of the core capabilities of electronic warfare, computer network operations, psychological operations, military deception, and operations security, in concert with specified supporting and related capabilities, to affect and defend information and information systems and to influence decisionmaking. (FM 3-13)"

Our intention as an organization specialising in the application of international criminal law is to use our best efforts to ensure that those responsible for these acts are investigated and brought to trial according to existing standards of international humanitarian law and international criminal law which are of mandatory application in the Colombian legal system.

These practices are incompatible with the development of civil liberties in any society and, given technological developments and the advances in systems of sociological simulation, enable social and political control of a society, in this case, Colombian society, leaving the citizens of that society with no defence against the widespread use of such practices.

6) On 16 October a very serious security incident took place in the building where Claudia Julieta Duque habitually resides: a well organized unit of at least 10 individuals, using 4 or 5 vehicles, took position in the interior of the building and formed a security perimeter around it to protect the operation which was clearly organized from a military perspective. Its objectives however could not be carried out given that our colleague was then at a meeting of the International Peace Brigades.

After specialised and official police intervention, all records concerning the security and control of the building were taken and the actions taken by the operation and most of the individuals in the group were clearly identified. The record on Claudia Julieta Duque was officially delivered to the Colombian representative for the UN High Commission for Human Rights whom we have made legal custodian of the same.

Lawyers representing Claudia Julieta Duque who are members of the Collective Corporation of Lawyers (Corporación Colectivo de Abogados) "José Alvear Restrepo" are in charge of pursuing the appropriate procedural and criminal actions.

10) We believe that this serious act of intimidation was carried out precisely at a time when Claudia Julieta Duque is to give testimony to the courts, considering that for years she has pursued the only direct action against the DAS which has reached the superior courts. Her intention - for which she relies on our complete support - is to continue with the appropriate legal process and to demand a complete investigation of this latest serious incident.

11) We hold the President Álvaro Uribe Vélez directly responsible for the active and passive protection of Claudia Julieta Duque, not merely because he is President of the Republic of Colombia, but also because he is the hierarchical head of the Department of Administrative Security. In that capacity, we would point out that according to applicable criminal doctrine, his responsibility arises under the principle of command responsibility, in other words, under the principle which renders the hierarchical superior criminally responsible for the illegal acts of his subordinates due to the fact that, at minimum, he should know or should have known what was taking place in all the illegal operations of that intelligence entity.

12) Bearing in mind that these types of crime are not subject to prescription and therefore neither are the responsibilities of Álvaro Uribe Vélez, we will continue our legal actions to ensure the full investigation of all the illegal and criminal acts committed by the DAS under his command.

Gregorio Dionis, President of Equipo Nizkor.
Charleroi and Bogotá, 22 October 2009


1. U.S. Army Counterinsurgency Handbook, (Foreword By Lt. Gen. David H. Petraeus, U.S. Army and Lt. Gen. James F. Amos, USMC), Departament of Defense, Skyhorse Publishing, NY, 2007 [Volver]

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small logoThis document has been published on 24Oct09 by the Equipo Nizkor and Derechos Human Rights. In accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107, this material is distributed without profit to those who have expressed a prior interest in receiving the included information for research and educational purposes.