Press Release

IACHR Concerned over Killing of a City Council Candidate and other Incidents of Alleged Political Persecution in Venezuela

November 30, 2013

The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) expresses its deep concern over the killing in Venezuela of José Chirinos, a City Council candidate for the coalition known as the Mesa de la Unidad Democrática (MUD), in the state of Zulia, and over the alleged arbitrary and illegal detention of Alejandro Silva, an opposition leader.

The Commission has taken cognizance of this troubling information in recent days, involving incidents reportedly taking place in the context of the election campaign underway in Venezuela, as well as actions reportedly being taken by the Venezuelan authorities that could have a chilling effect on the expression of criticism or dissent by people the authorities consider to be political opponents.

Killing of a Candidate during an Election Campaign

The information available indicates that José Chirinos was killed on the night of November 26, 2013, in the state of Zulia, as he was leaving a local radio station after giving an interview. He reportedly was intercepted by unidentified individuals on a motorcycle, who shot him a number of times without saying a word. José Chirinos was a member of the Un Nuevo Tiempo political party and a candidate for Councilman for the first circuit of the municipality of Baralt in Zulia, in the regional elections to be held in Venezuela on December 8, 2013.

According to information provided by Venezuela’s Office of the Public Prosecutor, the Office of the Attorney General of the Republic has ordered an investigation into these incidents, and the competent authorities will coordinate their efforts to carry out the relevant procedures.

Alleged Arbitrary and Illegal Detention of an Opposition Leader

According to information made known to the Commission, on November 23, 2013, Alejandro Silva, national campaign tour coordinator for the “Simón Bolívar” Campaign Command and a member of the Primero Justicia party, was subject to an alleged arbitrary and illegal detention by presumed officials of the Military Intelligence Directorate (DIM). The officials reportedly took Silva to DIM headquarters in Caracas at 2 a.m., without showing him a court order or informing him of the reasons for taking him there. The IACHR learned that Alejandro Silva reportedly was allowed to leave the DIM on the afternoon of that same day.

The Commission has been following the statements made by various opposition sectors and by high-level Venezuelan authorities about these incidents. In that regard, the IACHR points to the circumstances in which Alejandro Silva reportedly was taken to the DIM, as well as his stay there. In addition, the IACHR notes that the alleged detention of Alejandro Silva reportedly took place on the date that sectors of the Venezuelan opposition had called for nationwide demonstrations, and after President Nicolás Maduro had announced to the media that he had ordered the arrest of political leaders, including a member of the Primero Justicia party, because of alleged destabilization plans.

The IACHR decided to send a letter to the government of Venezuela, in accordance with the provisions of Article 18 of the IACHR Rules of Procedure, to ask for information about this detention.

Commission Urges the Venezuelan State to Investigate these Incidents and Guarantee a Democratic Citizen Security

The Commission calls on the State to initiate investigations into the reported incidents, as well as to reinforce all actions that ensure that the investigations begun are carried out diligently and impartially and that appropriate accountability is established.

In addition, the IACHR expresses its concern because these incidents are seemingly taking place in a delicate climate of polarization, marked by alleged reprisals for political dissent and statements by high-level government spokespersons stigmatizing or intimidating various civil society groups identified as part of the opposition. In this regard, the IACHR once again notes that statements of political intolerance made by public authorities may at times find resonance among civilian groups, some of which take them to an extreme and act outside the law as violent groups to intimidate those considered enemies of the government’s political program.

In that context, the Commission urges the Venezuelan State to urgently adopt all measures that may be necessary to guarantee the rights to life and humane treatment, as well as political rights, the right of assembly, and the rights to freedom of association and freedom of expression.

A principal, autonomous body of the Organization of American States (OAS), the IACHR derives its mandate from the OAS Charter and the American Convention on Human Rights. The Inter-American Commission has a mandate to promote respect for human rights in the region and acts as a consultative body to the OAS in this area. The Commission is composed of seven independent members who are elected in an individual capacity by the OAS General Assembly and who do not represent their countries of origin or residence

No. 96/13