UK government accused of funding Colombian secret police

By staff writers
10 Apr 2011

Colombian journalist Claudia Julieta Duque says that UK government funds are being used to finance a unit of her country's secret security police.

The Latin American investigative reporter - who has faced high levels of intimidation and persecution for her brave reporting on human rights abuses and government corruption - was speaking this weekend at the National Union of Journalists' (NUJ) annual conference in Southport.

An honorary member of the NUJ, Claudia Julieta Duque has been kidnapped and forced to flee the country three times. She has faced continual menaces, death threats and harassment at the hands of the Colombian DAS security service.

She told delegates that a Colombian secret service unit received money from the British government because it was supposed to be combatting money laundering. But in reality this money was being used to fund the kidnapping and intimidation of journalists.

NUJ General Secretary Jeremy Dear said this charge required urgent and serious investigation in the public interest.

A security service memo which Ms Duque managed to see through a court action directed that she was to be raped, tortured and killed.

"All because she is a journalist covering human rights in a country with an appalling record of abuses," said Mr Dear, introducing her to the conference - which responded with a standing ovation.

Ms Duque told the gathered journalists that she did not like to speak about herself, because her case was only one among many in a country where journalists, trade unionists and activists for social justice were frequently murdered.

She condemned claims from the UK and United States government that conditions were now better in Colombia, and the new regime was a 'big improvement'.

"The secret police is stlll doing its job, and for journalists the situation is not much different to how it was. My work is to investigate and denounce, to highlight the situation," declared Ms Duque.

"The big issue for us is to challenge the impunity which attaches to those responsible for the killings and illegal acts against journalists and others," she added.

"My real hope for change in Colombia is to break that impunity," concluded Claudia Julieta Duque.

NUJ delegates at the conference observed a minute's silence in memory of the many media workers killed for doing their job across the world since the last annual conference.

They also heard from three African journalists seeking refuge and asylum in Britain - and facing official obstruction and intransigence.

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National Union of Journalists: http://www.nuj.org.uk/

Human Rights Watch on Colombia: http://www.hrw.org/americas/colombia

Amnesty International Colombia reports: http://www.amnestyusa.org/all-countries/colombia/page.do?id=1011135

Also on Ekklesia: 'Courage, journalism and oppression in Colombia', by Simon Barrow - http://www.ekklesia.co.uk/node/14531

[Ekk/3]

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