New York, November 28, 2023—The Committee to Protect Journalists strongly supports a Bogotá superior district court’s November decision to convict a former Colombian state security agent of aggravated torture against journalist Claudia Julieta Duque.
“We welcome this overdue conviction as a necessary victory against impunity in crimes against journalists in Colombia,” said Carlos Martínez de la Serna, CPJ´s program director, from New York. “Colombian authorities should adopt the necessary measures to ensure no other journalist ever has to endure the persecution that Claudia Julieta Duque faced.”
On November 20, the court convicted Ronal Harbey Rivera Rodríguez, a former detective of the now-defunct state intelligence agency Department of Administrative Security (DAS), and sentenced him to 12.5 years in prison, according to news reports, a copy of the decision, and a statement by the Bogotá-based Foundation for Press Freedom (FLIP).
The court determined that Rivera was guilty of psychologically torturing and harassing Duque, making intimidating phone calls, and spying on the journalist between 2001 and 2004 in retaliation for her reporting on the 1999 murder of journalist Jaime Garzón. The decision came after Duque appealed a lower court ruling in June 2023 that acquitted Rivera.
The Bogotá superior district court also declared that Rivera’s actions against Duque constituted a crime against humanity carried out with the knowledge of the state. It ordered that Colombia’s president issue a public apology to Duque.
Rivera is a fugitive from justice, and the FLIP statement called for his immediate capture.
Duque had been harassed and received anonymous death threats in the early 2000s following her reporting on the murder of Garzón, whom she alleged may have been killed by the DAS. In 2014, a Bogotá criminal court sentenced a former high-ranking intelligence official to 11 years in prison for carrying out a campaign of aggression and death threats against Duque.