Amnesty: Venezuela’s Abuse of Civil-Rights Activists Must End

By Víctor Molina

EspañolIn October 2015, Amnesty International for the first time attended an Inter-American Commission hearing on Human Rights (IACHR) in Venezuela.

The reason: to request a special report on the situation of Venezuelan human-rights activists, who have faced an increasing number of accusations in the media  especially on state television  on behalf of top officials, among them President Nicolás Maduro and National Assembly Speaker Diosdado Cabello.

Human-rights activists have also come under physical attack in Venezuela, as Marino Alvarado told the IACHR. Recently, gunmen broke into his home, subduing and beating him and his small son.

In 2014, anti-government protests left 44 people dead and hundreds injured.

Venezuela won’t achieve justice for victims if it does not value and protect the work of human-rights advocates.

Both domestic and international organizations have documented cases of torture, such as that of Wuaddy Moreno, a farmer who claimed that the National Guard arrested him after returning from a birthday party and accused him of erecting barricades. They burned his buttocks with a screwdriver on fire.

In another case, Gloria Tobón reported that Venezuelan police dragged her and her daughter along by their necks as they passed by a protest on the way to buy food. The officers beat them up, administered electric shocks to their genitals, and threatened to kill them.

Testimonials like these echo throughout Venezuela. Sometimes, scenes like the following are captured on camera: state officials kicking individuals, using firearms against them indiscriminately, delivering multiple blows to victims with blunt objects, insulting them or making death threats. There are even filmed cases of sexual assault. Medical examinations conducted after complaints do not meet international standards. Impunity is the rule.

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Venezuela’s sentencing of opposition leader Leopoldo López to 13 years, 7 months, 12 days and 12 hours in prison shows an utter lack of judicial independence. The UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detentions questioned the fairness of López’s trial.

Amnesty International has declared López Venezuela’s first prisoner of conscience. His case resembles those of persecuted activists like Rosmit Mantilla, advocate for the rights of lesbians, gays, bisexuals, and transgender persons and a member of López’s Popular Will party. In May 2014, Venezuelan police detained Mantilla at his grandparents’ home, and he has been waiting trial ever since. After 18 months, the prosecution has presented no credible evidence against him.

The Venezuelan government claims that the Constitution is the “world’s most advanced in terms of human rights,” and that it upholds its guarantees. In fact, Articles 19, 23, 31, and 339 recognize international law and, specifically, the American Convention on Human Rights and its authority.

In order for Caracas to respect the Constitution, it must return to the American Convention, which the government unconstitutionally abandoned in 2013. In addition, it must release those arbitrarily arrested, and comply with the resolutions and recommendations of international organizations such as the UN Committee against Torture, which demands urgent measures to ensure each prisoner’s right to physical integrity.

At the same time, Venezuela must accept the 52 recommendations it has received from the UN Committee on Human Rights’ Universal Periodic Review (UPR) concerning judicial independence and protection of legal defenders.

Víctor Molina is the communications director at Amnesty International Venezuela. Follow @amnistia.

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