IACHR Files Application Before Inter-American Court of Human Rights in Case Concerning Extrajudicial Killings in Venezuela

July 27, 2023

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Washington, D.C. – The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) filed on March 29, 2023, an application before the Inter-American Court of Human Rights in Case 14,177, concerning the extrajudicial killings of brothers Israel Benjamín, Martín Daniel, Leonel David, and Leonardo José Manaure Flores and a lack of due diligence to investigate them, with regard to Venezuela.

According to the available reports, a group of officers of the country's Scientific, Criminal, and Forensic Corps (CICPC) raided in 2017 the home of brothers Israel Benjamín (16), Martín Daniel (17), Leonel David (19), and Leonardo José (24). All of them were executed at the site.

The officers involved in the raid told the media that the brothers were criminals and had died in a clash with the police. The young men's mother, Ana María Flores Quintero, said none of her sons had criminal records and noted that three of them were students and one worked in construction.

These events happened in the Venezuelan state of Aragua, where extrajudicial killings were common during the raids conducted by law enforcement agencies. These raids were often irregular and featured unlawful forced entry and clashes where certain individuals—mostly young men from poor families—were killed on the presumption that they were criminals, without an effective judicial response, in cases that were usually left unpunished. The Commission found that the Venezuelan State was responsible for violations of the right to life of Israel Benjamín Manaure Flores, Martín Daniel Manaure Flores, Leonel David Manaure Flores, and Leonardo José Manaure Flores. Further, given that Israel Benjamín Manaure Flores and Martín Daniel Manaure Flores were 16 and 17 at the time, the Commission noted that the State had failed to comply with its duty to take all measures necessary to protect their best interests.

Concerning the investigation of these events, the Commission found that the Venezuelan Public Prosecutor's Office had called for an investigation in this case, targeting officers of the CICPC's Caña de Azúcar division. However, the IACHR found no evidence of significant developments in that investigation, of any logical lines of investigation pursued, of the identification of the individuals who perpetrated the killings, or of any punishment imposed.

The Commission therefore found that the State had failed to comply with its obligation to conduct a timely, swift, and objective ex-officio investigation, with due diligence, in a broader context of extrajudicial killings in Aragua.

Finally, the Commission found that Ana María Flores Quintero had feared attacks and moved house to protect her safety after demanding that justice be done in the wake of her four sons' deaths, and that she had suffered pain and anxiety over the circumstances in which they had died.

Based on all these considerations, the Commission found that the Venezuelan State was responsible for violations of the rights held in Articles 4 (life), 5 (humane treatment), 8 (fair trial), 19 (rights of the child), and 25 (judicial protection) of the American Convention, in keeping with the obligations held in Article 1.1 of the same instrument.

In its Merits Report, the Commission recommended that the State adopt the following reparation measures:

1. Providing comprehensive reparations for the human rights violations mentioned in the Merits Report, including both material and moral aspects.

2. Providing any physical and mental healthcare necessary for the rehabilitation of Ana María Flores Quintero, should she want it.

3. Further pursuing the relevant criminal investigation and conducting it in a diligent, effective, and timely way, with a view to fully shedding light on these events, identifying anyone who may have been responsible for them, and imposing the relevant punishment.

4. Taking non-recurrence measures to prevent similar events in the future: (i) training programs concerning international human rights standards on the use of force and the ban on extrajudicial killings; (ii) measures to ensure diligent investigation of the need for and proportionality of the use of lethal force by the police, with adequate oversight protocols and accountability mechanisms regarding the actions of police officers.

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. 171/23

11:45 AM