IACHR

Press Release

IACHR Strongly Condemns Indiscriminately Repressive Military Operations in Venezuela

June 27, 2017

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María Isabel Rivero
IACHR Press and Communication Office
Tel: +1 (202) 370-9001
mrivero@oas.org

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Washington, D.C.—The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) strongly condemns the operations carried out in recent days in Venezuela by State security forces, primarily military, amid an escalating situation of violence in the country since April 2017, which has left dozens of people dead, hundreds injured, and thousands arrested.

The latest official figures from the Public Prosecutor’s Office, released on June 15, indicate that a total of 73 deaths have been recorded. In terms of arrests, civil society organizations put the number at more than 3,500, while high-level officials from the Public Prosecutor’s Office have said that number is now more than 4,000. However, there is no exact official figure, nor is there official detailed information about the identity of those arrested or their situation.

On June 22-2017, a 22-year-old student has died after having been shot at point blank range. This event, recorded on video, took place during a demonstration in support of the Attorney General of Venezuela, on the Francisco Fajardo highway, the main highway of Caracas. Days earlier, on June 19, another 17-year-old youth was reported to have died of gunshot wounds sustained while he was participating in a demonstration in the city of Caracas. The Commission is deeply concerned about the many and serious allegations indicating that both demonstrations were quelled by agents of the Bolivarian National Guard (GNB) who not only used dispersion methods such as tear gas, but also reportedly fired guns directly and at close range into the crowd of demonstrators.  Several people were also reported to have received gunshot wounds. The Venezuelan Ministry of Interior and Justice and the Public Prosecutor’s Office announced that the authorities are investigating these events.

On June 8, another 17-year-old was reported to have died in another protest in Caracas. According to family members and various public allegations, the young man was hit in the chest by a tear gas bomb fired directly at him by a member of the GNB. For its part, the Ministry of Interior and Justice stated publicly that the youth had been injured when he was handling a homemade explosive device. The IACHR knows that this event is under investigation and that the investigation is still ongoing.

The Commission urges the State to move forward as quickly as possible, and in accordance with due process guarantees, to investigate these two cases and other reported acts of violence. In the context of the serious situation Venezuela is going through, it is critical that these events do not go unpunished and that the necessary measures are taken urgently to prevent, with utmost rigor, the disproportionate use of force by security agents of the State.

Moreover, the IACHR observes with deep concern that these events took place after the Inter-American Commission had already expressed its alarm over the militarization of public security operations to dissuade and, in some cases, impede the exercise of the right to peacefully protest. The Commission has noted that the militarization of citizen security produces violations of other human rights, in addition to the right to peaceful social protest and to freedom of expression.

The Commission has also received very troubling information regarding another type of operation reportedly being carried out in residential areas with the participation of the GNB, the Bolivarian National Intelligence Service (SEBIN), and the Bolivarian National Police (PNB). Based on its close monitoring of the situation, the IACHR has learned that operations have been carried out in recent weeks in the states of Mérida, Lara, Táchira, Carabobo, Zulia, and Miranda, as well as in several parts of the Caracas metropolitan area.

The most recent incident occurred between June 13 and the early morning hours of June 14, in which it was reported that armored vehicles (light tanks) and dozens of public security officers went into the Los Verdes apartment complex in El Paraíso, in the western part of Caracas, without a warrant. It was reported that for several hours, the residential buildings were the targets of direct attacks with tear gas and gunfire, and security officers violently entered dozens of apartments, causing damage and even reportedly stealing property from residents and from the buildings in general.

The IACHR observes that civil society organizations have denounced a “systematic practice of indiscriminate repression,” and that the operations and violent incursions are one form of this. Specifically, these organizations indicate that indiscriminate repression in the context of the serious social crisis being experienced in Venezuela has the purpose of instilling fear and anxiety in the population in order to persuade people not to participate in protest demonstrations.

The Commission expresses its concern over the seriousness of the allegations regarding the circumstances in which this operation was reportedly carried out, and over the lack of official information regarding compliance with the legal requirements to conduct raids and make arrests. In this sense, it is imperative for the Venezuelan State to conduct a serious and impartial investigation into these events and make the appropriate determinations of responsibility. The IACHR also reiterates its concern regarding statements made by high-level State authorities that seek to stigmatize and criminalize people who participate in demonstrations.

Given the escalation of violence and the increase in the number of deaths and injuries in the protests, the IACHR again makes an imperative call to the Venezuelan authorities to fulfill their human rights obligations and immediately cease the repressive measures adopted in recent weeks. The Commission is dismayed by the serious events that have been reported and will continue to closely follow the situation.

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 and defense of 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. 084/17