IACHR Issues Urgent Call for Venezuela to Protect Political Prisoners' Rights to Life and Personal Integrity

December 23, 2021

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Washington, D.C. – The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) issues an urgent call for the State of Venezuela to protect the rights to life and personal integrity of all political prisoners and to investigate with due diligence all deaths of individuals in State custody and punish the people responsible for them.

The IACHR has repeatedly said that systematic persecution and criminalization of individuals who are perceived to be critical of the government are both rife in Venezuela. According to the organization Foro Penal, there are currently 244 political prisoners in the country (230 men and 14 women), who have allegedly been charged with crimes like terrorism, inciting hatred, conspiracy to commit a crime, high treason, and rebellion. According to the available reports, the affected individuals constantly have to endure a lack of judicial guarantees and other violations of their rights while deprived of liberty. The IACHR has had access to information documenting deaths of political prisoners while in State custody and has also heard allegations of a lack of timely and adequate specialist medical care that makes these individuals seriously vulnerable.

In particular, in recent days, the IACHR received reports of the serious health condition of José Javier Tarazona Sánchez, president of the organization Fundaredes and a beneficiary of IACHR precautionary measures since June 18, 2020. Tarazona Sánchez remains deprived of liberty since July 1, 2021, at the Helicoide facility run by the Bolivarian National Intelligence Service. According to the available reports, he requires urgent medical care.

The IACHR notes with concern that other political prisoners have died at the Helicoide without the conditions of their deaths being adequately established. This was the case with military official Raúl Baduel, who died on October 12, 2021. The Commission therefore stresses its call to Venezuelan authorities, for them to launch a serious, impartial, and effective investigation of Baduel's death, aimed at establishing the truth and, if necessary, punishing anyone found guilty of any wrongdoing in this context.

The Commission urges Venezuelan authorities to comply with the Venezuelan State's obligation to provide timely and adequate medical care to individuals in its custody. In particular, this obligation implies preserving the physical and mental health of all individuals who are deprived of liberty, by providing them regular medical check-ups and, when necessary, adequate and timely specialist medical care. The IACHR further reminds the State of its duty to protect the lives and personal integrity of all individuals who are deprived of liberty. The Commission urges the State to refrain from conducting politically motivated arrests and to ensure due process in all criminal law proceedings.

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. 347/21

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