Press Release

IACHR Expresses its Concern over the Death of Rodolfo González in Venezuela

March 18, 2015

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María Isabel Rivero
IACHR Press and Communication Director
Tel: +1 (202) 370-9001

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Washington, D.C. - The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) expresses its concern over the death of Rodolfo González, who had been held in custody at the headquarters of Venezuela’s Bolivarian National Intelligence Service (SEBIN).

According to information in the public domain, Rodolfo González, 63, was a Civil Aviation captain who was arrested on April 26, 2014, following a search of his home. Media reports said that on March 12, 2015, the detainees at SEBIN received a visit from Venezuela’s Minister of Prison Affairs, Iris Varela, who reportedly told them that many of them would be transferred to Yare Prison. The following day, the lifeless body of Rodolfo González was apparently found in his cell, and he was reported to have committed suicide.

Yare Prison has provisional measures in effect from the Inter-American Court of Human Rights because the people there are reportedly subjected to situations that jeopardize or have directly affected their rights to life and humane treatment. The IACHR calls to mind that transfers of persons deprived of liberty must not be carried out in order to punish, repress, or discriminate against them, nor under conditions that cause physical or mental suffering.

The Inter-American Commission is concerned to observe that this death took place in a context in which specialized UN agencies and other organizations have spoken out many times about the conditions in which detainees at SEBIN are being held and the alleged use of torture and cruel, inhuman, and degrading treatment. In this regard, on March 2, 2015, the IACHR decided to grant a precautionary measure for two other detainees being held at SEBIN, requesting the State of Venezuela to adopt measures to ensure that the conditions of detention are brought in line with international standards.

The State is in a special position as guarantor with regard to persons deprived of liberty, as prison authorities exercise total control over them. In this sense, one of the State’s inescapable obligations is to provide the minimum conditions compatible with human dignity in detention centers.

Likewise, States have the obligation to investigate, of their own accord, the death of any person that occurs in a center of deprivation of liberty. The fact that a death is initially characterized as a suicide does not exempt the competent authorities from undertaking an investigation in which all logical lines of inquiry are pursued. In this regard, the Inter-American Commission takes note of the information indicating that the Office of the Public Prosecutor has appointed a prosecutor to investigate the circumstances of the death of Rodolfo González, and urges the State to diligently, impartially, and efficiently continue its investigation.

Miguel Rodríguez Torres, Venezuela’s Minister of the Interior at the time of the arrest, publicly accused Rodolfo González of being the “logistics coordinator” of the anti-government protests that took place in February 2014. The then-Minister indicated that it had been possible to determine that Rodolfo González had ties to Antonio Ledezma and other opposition leaders, and that he belonged to “Voluntad Popular, without question a seditious party.” Moreover, Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro said publicly that Rodolfo González was “one of the brains of the ‘Guarimbera’ insurrection.” Meanwhile, various media reports indicate that during the protests Rodolfo González provided assistance to the demonstrators, taking them food and giving them moral support. According to the information available, Rodolfo González had been formally charged with association to commit a crime, possession of explosives, and trafficking in firearms.

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. 030/15