Press Release

IACHR Expresses Deep Concern over Acts of Violence in Venezuela and Urges the State to Ensure Democratic Citizen Security

February 14, 2014

Washington, D.C.—The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) expresses its concern over the serious incidents of violence that have taken place in the context of protest demonstrations in Venezuela, as well as other complaints concerning acts of censorship against media outlets, attacks on organizations that defend human rights, and acts of alleged political persecution.

The Commission has received and obtained troubling information, on the incidents that occurred during the marches that took place on February 12 in Venezuela, both from Venezuelan government authorities and civil society organizations. In this regard, the IACHR has taken cognizance of the violent clashes that occurred during the demonstrations, in particular the complaints regarding alleged attacks on the protesters by armed civilian groups, as well as the allegedly disproportionate use of force on the part of State security agents.

According to figures provided by the Attorney General of the Republic, a total of 66 individuals were injured in the protests around the country. According to official figures, three individuals in Caracas were killed as a result of gunshot wounds, and 69 individuals were reportedly detained. Civil society organizations, for their part, have reported that the number of those detained in demonstrations across the country is over 100 and that in some cases the individuals were taken to military facilities and facilities of the Bolivarian Intelligence Service (SEBIN) and held incommunicado, and were not allowed initial contact with their lawyers or relatives.

In this context, the IACHR was also informed about the alleged detention, on the night of February 12, of Inti Rodríguez, media coordinator for the nongovernmental organization PROVEA, by alleged SEBIN officers. According to what PROVEA reported, Mr. Rodríguez was taken to an unknown location in Western Caracas, where he was allegedly beaten by individuals in black uniforms, who apparently interrogated him about his activities within the organization and threatened him and his family with death. After about two hours, Mr. Rodríguez was reportedly released, after having been stripped of his belongings and threatened about filing a complaint concerning these incidents.

The Commission has also received information regarding an alleged news blackout imposed on media outlets in Venezuela during the course of these demonstrations and their coverage by the media. In particular, according to publicly known information, the Colombian news channel NTN24, which is transmitted in Venezuela via cable television, had its signal cut as it was reporting on development during the protests.

Moreover, during the day of the protest demonstrations, the Board of Social Responsibility in Radio and Television of the National Telecommunications Commission (CONATEL) issued an official press release warning that media coverage of the acts of violence recorded, “on the part of certain providers of private, national, and regional services, both in radio and television as well as electronic media,” could constitute violations of the Law on Social Responsibility in Radio and Television, which could lead to penalties and sanctions.

In this regard, the Commission and its Office of the Special Rapporteur for Freedom of Expression once again express their concern over the reduction of opportunities for public debate and over the untimely loss, at this juncture, of a channel and the ongoing threat of sanctions on the media by the authorities, due to news coverage related to complaints or considerations regarding the situation in the country. That translates into a lack of guarantees for the exercise of the right to freedom of expression in a way that is free and independent and that adheres to the guarantees established in international instruments to which Venezuela is a party.

The IACHR also observes that these incidents are taking place in a context in which some Venezuelan authorities have made public statements stigmatizing and disparaging various civil society groups identified with the opposition. The Commission reiterates, likewise, that expressions of political intolerance by the government authority not only run contrary to the full exercise of human rights but can also place these civil society groups in a position of greater vulnerability and risk when it comes to various types of potential attacks.

In addition, the Commission is mindful that, according to publicly known information, protests and other incidents involving violence continue to take place in the country. In this context, the complaints regarding individuals detained during these protests are said to be continuing.

The Commission urges the State of Venezuela to urgently adopt all measures that may be necessary to guarantee the rights to life, humane treatment, and security, as well as the political rights, the right of assembly, and the rights of freedom of association and freedom of expression of everyone under its jurisdiction. This includes the obligation of the authorities, particularly those responsible for law enforcement and domestic security, to take operational measures to protect individuals whose life and physical integrity may be at risk due to acts of violence at the hands of other individuals, and to prevent situations that lead to acts of violence from being repeated.

The Commission calls on the State to open investigations into the incidents that have been reported, as well as to reinforce any actions that ensure that investigations that are initiated are carried out diligently and impartially, and that responsibility be established as warranted.

Moreover, in order to help ensure that such incidents do not happen again, the IACHR calls for the rejection of any form and violence, and the promotion of a process of dialogue to seek a solution that is respectful of human rights.

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 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. 13/14