Harassment and intimidation of human rights defender Ms Claudia Julieta Duque

Colombian human rights defender Ms Claudia Julieta Duque has been subject to ongoing intimidation and harassment. On 16 October 2009, six individuals entered her residential complex and carried out surveillance on her apartment, while four other persons waited outside with four vehicles. Further Information

This incident follows an ongoing campaign of intimidation in which Claudia Julieta Duque has been followed, and she and her family have received suspicious phone calls. Claudia Julieta Duque is a journalist and works as correspondent of the Equipo Nizkor and Radio Nizkor in Colombia, and is a member of the Federación Colombiana de Periodistas (Fecolper) and of the directive board of the Unión de Periodistas de Bogotá (UPB).

On 16 October 2009, at approximately 12.30 pm, six individuals entered the residential complex where Claudia Julieta Duque lives. Three of them remained in the building entrance while three others went to her apartment entrance. Security videos show the four others who waited outside with four vehicles. Security tapes show one woman leaving the complex at 12.26pm: there was no video footage of the woman entering the building between 10:00 am and the time she left so it is believed that she may have been inside the building for more than two hours.

Claudia Julieta Duque's dog was alerted to the fact that a man and a woman were at the apartment looking under the door. Another woman was watching from below. Claudia Julieta Duque's brother, who happened to be in the apartment at the time, heard the dog barking and looked out. When the individuals realised he was present, they left the complex' corridor but did not immediately leave the building. Her brother called the complex security guard and told him what was happening, and he replied that he would call someone. Her brother later called the guard a second and a third time to tell him that the individuals had split up from each other, and were on their way past the security desk. When they eventually left the building some minutes later, the guard allowed them to leave without questioning them.

In the security videos two other women and another man are seen entering and leaving the building. Thereafter all the individuals can be seen swapping between the four cars which had been outside the complex since 12.30 pm. In addition, the security camera on Claudia Julieta Duque's building was damaged the previous day, while the camera inside at the security desk had stopped working at 10.31 that morning. Claudia Julieta Duque’s mobile was blocked from 12 until 7pm that evening. Claudia Julieta Duque has given a copy of the security camera tapes to Dr Christian Salazar in the United Nations Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR), in Colombia. She also phoned the Ministry of the Interior's emergency phone line to report the incident but has received no response to date.

This latest incident follows a series of suspicious phone calls to members of Claudia Julieta Duque's family enquiring after the journalist's whereabouts.

Furthermore, between July and September 2009 Claudia Julieta Duque was followed on more than one occasion. On 24 July during a visit to Pereira, she was followed from Cajamarca to Armenia by a red motorcycle GS 500. Although she varied her speed, overtaking cars and then allowing cars to overtake her, the motorcycle followed her consistently. It left once she took photos of it and the driver on her mobile phone. On 6 and 11 August she was followed by a white vehicle. Upon verification, the registration plates are logged as belonging to a red vehicle so that it is believed that vehicles following her may use false registration plates.

It is believed that this intimidation is linked to the interrogation of Departamento Administrativo de Seguridad (DAS) officials for a second time in relation to a criminal investigation into threats against Claudia Julieta Duque. In addition, it is thought that calls have been made to her family because a 2004 report written by the DAS, the Colombian secret police, directly attached to the Presidency, stated that intelligence was certain that Claudia Julieta Duque does not answer telephone calls any more due to the constant death threats and intimidations she received at that time (“se ha establecido mediante labores de inteligencia técnica que Claudia Julieta Duque ya no contesta llamadas telefónicas”). Front Line previously reported on intimidation and harassment of Claudia Julieta Duque on 7 July 2009.

Front Line believes that the intimidation and harassment against Claudia Julieta Duque is directly related to her work in the defence of human rights, in particular freedom of the press. Front Line is seriously concerned for the security and physical and psychological integrity of Claudia Julieta Duque.

Front Line urges the authorities in Colombia to:

  • 1. Carry out an immediate, impartial and thorough investigation into the intimidation of Claudia Julieta Duque, with a view to publishing the results and bringing those responsible to justice in accordance with international standards;

  • 2. Guarantee the security and physical and psychological integrity of Claudia Julieta Duque and her family;

  • 3. Ensure that all human rights defenders in Colombia carrying out their legitimate work in the defence of human rights are able to operate free of restrictions and reprisals.
Dublin, Ireland, 22Oct09

Front Line, International Foundation for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders

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Informes sobre libertad de Prensa en Colombia
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