IACHR Condemns Extrajudicial Killings of Young Men Who Live in Poverty in Venezuela

January 29, 2022

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Washington, D.C. – The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) condemns extrajudicial killings of young men who live in poverty in Venezuela and calls on the State to comply with international standards concerning the use of force, as well as to investigate this serious and systematic human rights violation and to try and punish its perpetrators.

According to publicly available reports, during the first two weeks of 2022, State law enforcement officers were involved in at least 27 murders. These figures are in line with those recorded by the independent international fact-finding mission on the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela and by the Organization of American States. In these cases, all of which happened in law enforcement raid contexts, 80% of all victims were under 25, 99% of them were men who lived in poverty, and 80% of all cases featured some form of threat or harassment against the people who reported the killings. The IACHR notes that these deaths may be considered extrajudicial killings, according to inter-American standards. The Commission is further concerned that the Venezuelan State keeps presenting most of these violent deaths as instances where the victims "resisted arrest."

The IACHR stresses that law enforcement cannot rest purely on the use of force and on a paradigm that focuses on treating civilians as the enemy, but rather needs to protect individuals. The Commission further stresses that the use of a stereotypical reasoning by law enforcement officers can lead to instances of discrimination that affect rights. States must therefore not allow law enforcement officers to engage in practices that reproduce the stigma that young men who live in poverty are necessarily involved in crime.

Finally, the IACHR stresses that the State has a duty to launch prompt, serious, impartial, and effective investigations in all cases linked to extrajudicial killings. These investigations need to be conducted using all the judicial means available to establish the truth and to ensure investigation, prosecution, and punishment for all the perpetrators and masterminds of the killings in question, especially when officers of the State are or might be involved in them.

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. 021/22

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