Press Release

Concerned About Worsening Conditions of Detention at DGCM Headquarters in Venezuela, IACHR Urges State to Comply with Precautionary Measures

May 22, 2019

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Washington, D.C. – The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) expresses its concern about the worsening conditions of detention faced by military officers and civilians held at the headquarters of the General Department of Military Counterintelligence (DGCM, by its Spanish acronym) in La Boleita, in the Caracas municipality of Sucre. The IACHR urges the State of Venezuela to comply with the precautionary measures that the Commission has granted in favor of those military officers and civilians.

On May 22, the Commission heard alarming reports about the persistence of the acts of violence and appalling conditions of detention that were reported in requests for those precautionary measures. Recent allegations include torture and other forms of cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment, isolation and procedures to keep detainees incommunicado, along with worsening conditions for some precautionary-measure beneficiaries. According to the requesting party, “cruel treatment persists.” Detainees’ access to their families had allegedly been restricted, while the head of the DGCM allegedly even threatened beneficiaries with “gassing them through the pipes, concentration-camp style, unless they stopped complaining.”

The requesting party further reported that beneficiaries had not had access to fresh air or natural light for over a month, while restrictions allegedly persisted in access to water, food and adequate medical care. The requesting party mentioned as an example the situation of Navy Captain Luis Humberto de La Sotta and of Lieutenant Colonel Igbert Marín Chaparro, who by May 22 had allegedly been held “completely incommunicado” for 18 and 25 days respectively. The report also said that Major Abraham Suárez had attempted suicide on May 21. Major Suárez’ second suicide attempt allegedly happened as a consequence of the depression he suffers after being subjected to torture. Although he is currently being held at a military hospital, he is allegedly being denied the medical treatment he was prescribed following his first suicide attempt. The report further noted that, last week, Second Sergeant Luis Armando Monsalve Estaba, who had allegedly been charged with watching beneficiaries, committed suicide, reportedly to escape the torture he was being subjected to himself.

The Commission has granted several precautionary measures in favor of detainees held at the DGCM’s headquarters, including Santiago José Guevara García, Luis Alejandro Mogollón Martínez, Igbert José Marín Chaparro, Luis Alexander Bandres Figueroa, Oswaldo García Palomo and others, Luis Humberto de la Sotta Quiroga and Juan Carlos Caguaripano. Further, on March 21, 2019, the IACHR granted precautionary measures in favor of all detainees at those facilities. The Commission recently had access to the requesting party’s first-hand reports concerning those precautionary-measure beneficiaries, in the context of public hearings held during its 172nd Period of Sessions in Kingston, Jamaica, on May 3-10, 2019. In this context, the Commission warns that the State of Venezuela failed not only to take part in those hearings, but also to submit a response after those precautionary measures were granted. That means there is no information available on the actions that may have been taken to protect beneficiaries’ rights, which is particularly worrying considering that the State has a special responsibility to protect persons deprived of their liberty.

The Commission condemns such practices and urges the State to comply with its obligation to reasonably implement the precautionary measures that have been granted. In particular, in keeping with PM-178-19, the State must take the following action: a) It must take any measures necessary to protect the rights to life, personal integrity and health of persons deprived of their liberty at the DGCM. In particular, the State must ensure that its officers respect beneficiaries’ rights in accordance with the standards of international human rights law and refrain from perpetrating any form of torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment. And it must also enable access to adequate medical treatment for any persons deprived of their liberty who may require such treatment based on their health condition, in accordance with the applicable international standards. b) The State must ensure that beneficiaries’ conditions of detention meet the applicable international standards. c) The State must facilitate beneficiaries’ access to their legal counsel and grant them family visits in accordance with the applicable international standards. d) The State must investigate the allegations that prompted this resolution, in order to prevent those alleged events from happening again in the future.

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 to defend 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. 125/19