IACHR Takes to Inter-American Court of Human Rights Case Concerning Torture and Unlawful Deprivation of Liberty in Venezuela

March 23, 2022

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Washington, D.C. – The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) filed on February 16, 2022, an application before the Inter-American Court of Human Rights, in a case involving Alfredo José Chirinos Salamanca and others, with regard to Venezuela. The case concerns State responsibility for violations of the human rights of 14 officers of Chacao's Municipal Police who were deprived of liberty.

Arrest warrants were issued against the 14 victims in June 2016, for alleged homicide.

Forty-five days after the warrants were issued, public prosecutors asked that pretrial detention be replaced with precautionary measures, which was accepted, and the judge ordered the victims' immediate release. In spite of this, the victims remained deprived of liberty at the facility known as the Helicoide, the headquarters of the Bolivarian National Intelligence Service in Caracas.

According to several public complaints, five of these officers were subjected to torture, to force them to provide information or confess their involvement in this crime. The victims went on hunger strike in protest but did not receive adequate medical care.

Twelve of the victims were released in December 2017. However, Fred Armando Mavares Zambrano and Reggie Jackson Andrade Alejos remained deprived of liberty and suffered several human rights violations, including not being taken to their court hearings, not being released despite having the relevant court warrants, and being transferred to another penitentiary facility, where they were held in inhuman isolation conditions.

In its Merits Report, the Commission said that the State of Venezuela had violated the victims' rights to liberty and to personal integrity, by keeping them arbitrarily and unlawfully deprived of liberty for periods of 17–24 months, during which they suffered torture and cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment. Although it had been informed of the complaints, the State did nothing to establish what happened or to protect the victims' freedom.

The IACHR therefore concluded that the State was liable for violations of Articles 5.1, 5.2, 7.1, 7.2, 7.3, 7.6, 8.1 and 25.1 of the American Convention on Human Rights, concerning the obligations held in Article 1.1, as well as of Articles 1, 6 and 8 of the Inter-American Convention to Prevent and Punish Torture.

The Inter-American Commission recommended that the Venezuelan State:

  1. Provide comprehensive reparations to victims, both material and immaterial
  2. Provide any physical and mental healthcare necessary for the rehabilitation of the victims who request it, in agreement with those victims
  3. Launch and pursue a diligent, effective, and timely criminal investigation to establish these events and to identify and punish anyone responsible for them
  4. Adopt non-recurrence mechanisms and measures to ensure that conditions of detention at the Helicoide facility reflect the applicable inter-American standards; in particular,
    1. issue a directive at the highest level, to ensure that officers of the Bolivarian National Intelligence Service refrain from all practices that amount to torture or cruel, inhuman, and degrading treatment, including acts of sexual and other gender-based violence Investigate and prosecute the use of torture, among others during interrogation
    2. Ensure that conditions of detention by the Bolivarian National Intelligence Service reflect the international standards applicable to detainees
    3. Adopt any legislative, administrative, or other measures (even coercive measures) to ensure that officers of the Bolivarian National Intelligence Service comply with court-issued release warrants

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. 060/22

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