Claudia Duque, an investigative journalist and correspondent for Radio Nizkor in Colombia, tackles some of the most difficult and dangerous stories in her country. Duque has covered issues such as child trafficking, illegal adoption, infiltration of paramilitary groups into Colombian state institutions and human rights violations.
In July 2001, when she started to investigate the 1999 murder of political humorist and journalist Jaime Garzón, Duque was kidnapped, robbed and told to stop her research. She was grabbed by a group of men waiting for her outside a conference in Bogota and forced into a taxi. When this incident occurred, Duque and her lawyer suspected that the Administrative Department of Security (DAS) – the Colombian secret police – tampered with evidence of the murder. This was confirmed in March 2004. Duque has continued to receive threats related to the case.
As a result of this incident and threats to her life, Duque was forced to leave the country. From October 2001 to August 2002, she lived in Ecuador. When she returned, she was declared to be in a situation of maximum risk by the government, which gave her bodyguards for protection.
Throughout 2003 and 2004, Duque received up to 70 threatening calls every day. Her phone lines were tapped, and DAS monitored her emails, mail and bank accounts, and constantly followed her work, travels and movements. As a result, she was forced to leave Colombia for a second time in December 2004. A memorandum, which Duque discovered in December 2009, was written by someone inside the Intelligence Direction of DAS, ordered DAS to threaten her with the death, rape and torture of her then 10-year-old daughter. The threats came after Duque tried to deepen her research on the Jaime Garzón's murder and investigate the infiltration of paramilitary groups into the Colombian Attorney General’s office.
In 2004, her investigation into the murder resulted in a sentence in absentia of 38 years against Carlos Castaño, the main paramilitary commander in the country. Castaño disappeared and was never arrested.
Duque returned to Colombia in February 2006, and threats resumed. In March 2007, Duque was warned that a murder contract had been put out on her. And in July 2007, email threats against her signed by the Águilas Negras (Black Eagles) paramilitary group were sent to Radio Nizkor.
In April 2008, Duque was forced to flee the country for a third time after learning that her body guards revealed information about her to the intelligence services between 2006 and 2007. She returned to Colombia in December 2008 when the Constitutional Court ruled that all DAS reports related to Duque, even those considered secret or national security files, should be delivered to her as unclassified materials. The DAS destroyed much of the material, but Duque still found detailed descriptions of how the DAS officials were supposed to intimidate and threaten her. She also found out that before she was protected by bodyguards, DAS had been monitoring her by filming her and photographing her daughter.
On October 16, 2009, a group of at least six people attempted to get into Duque’s home while she was gone. A family member managed to deter them, but the intruders remained in the building and were captured on security cameras talking on mobile phones.
Despite the threats against her and her daughter and the constant surveillance and pressure from the government, Duque continues to pursue her investigative efforts.
She was born on August 21, 1970, in Colombia.