Press Release

IACHR Urges Venezuela to Guarantee the Right to Protest and to Demilitarize Streets

April 19, 2017

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Washington, D.C. - The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) expresses its alarm at the militarization and call to arm 500,000 civilian militias "to defend peace, sovereignty and independence of the country" in the context of the protests taking place in Venezuela. The imminent deployment of military forces and armed civilian militias ordered by the Executive Branch represents a serious threat to the standards regarding citizen security and the protection of human rights.

The IACHR has expressed its extreme concern about acts of violence that have occurred in Venezuela during the recent weeks of demonstrations. At least five protesters were killed and dozens were left wounded, while hundreds of persons were detained and claims of acts of torture were disseminated. In addition, the Commission has recommended that the State publicly recognized and protected the right to peaceful assembly and freedom of expression without discrimination on the grounds of public opinion and excluded the participation of military and armed forces from controlling public demonstrations, among others. The Commission rejects any kind of intimidating expressions or discourse from high State officials against citizens and opposition leaders as a way of dissuading the right to protest.

The Commission urgently calls on the authorities to comply with their international human rights obligations, including their duty to facilitate demonstrations and protests, guaranteeing the life and personal integrity of demonstrators, while excluding the use of weapons to control social protests.

In order to ensure the non-repetition of acts of violence and excessive use of force in the context of demonstrations, the IACHR makes a strong call to reject any form of violence and promote the search for solutions with full respect for human rights. As the IACHR has stated: "The criminalization of legitimate social mobilization and protest, whether through direct repression of demonstrators, or through investigation, arbitrary detention of demonstrators and criminal prosecution, is incompatible with a democratic society where people have the right to express their opinion" peacefully.

Given the work of journalists who cover demonstrations and conflicting situations, the State must grant them the maximum degree of guarantees to fulfill their role and prevent acts of aggression, arrest or destruction of equipment and records. The work of journalists and communicators, and the free flow of information through alternative media such as social networks, is essential to keep the population informed about the events, while playing an important role in reporting on the performance of the State and the actions of the security toward the demonstrators.

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. 048/17