Press Release

IACHR Expresses Concern over Detentions and Attacks on Demonstrators and Journalists in the Context of Protests in Venezuela

June 9, 2016

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Washington, D.C. - The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) and its Office of the Special Rapporteur for Freedom of Expression are concerned about the acts of violence directed against protestors and journalists in Venezuela during the June 2 demonstrations in Caracas to protest the shortages in the country. The Commission urges the authorities to investigate the possible abusive use of force and, where applicable, to prosecute and punish those responsible. The Commission also calls on the State of Venezuela to guarantee and protect the physical integrity and security of demonstrators and journalists during public protests.

According to information the Commission has received, a protest developed on June 2 as a result of the shortages being experienced in Venezuela. The demonstrators had reportedly been waiting since the early morning hours to buy food at a store in downtown Caracas when around midday the authorities apparently took a shipment of products that were going to be sold in that area to sell them instead at Local Supply and Distribution Committees in other areas. In response, the demonstrators blocked some streets in the center of the Venezuelan capital. The IACHR has received information indicating that members of the Bolivarian National Police and the National Guard used tear gas and rubber bullets to break up the protest.

The IACHR has also received information from journalists who had been covering the protest who were reportedly assaulted and threatened, and had equipment such as cameras and cell phones taken away. These actions were said to have been carried out by armed civilians who were allegedly government supporters and were in the area to disperse the demonstrators. Members of law enforcement who were at the scene reportedly took no steps to protect the journalists who were under attack. According to the information available, 19 members of the media were affected.

These acts are taking place in the context of the recent declaration of a “state of exception and economic emergency” in Venezuela, about which the IACHR has expressed its concern. In this regard, the Commission urges the Venezuelan State to adopt all necessary measures to guarantee the rights to life, physical integrity, and security of everyone under its jurisdiction. This includes the obligation of the authorities, particularly those in charge of law and order and internal security, to take active measures to protect people whose lives and integrity may be at risk due to acts of violence at the hands of other individuals, and to prevent the recurrence of situations that may lead to acts of violence.

The Office of the Special Rapporteur calls to mind that the State has a duty to ensure that journalists and media workers who are covering the news during public demonstrations are not detained, threatened, attacked, or restricted in any way in their rights as a result of exercising their profession. Their materials and equipment must not be destroyed or confiscated by government authorities. The protection of freedom of expression requires authorities to ensure the necessary conditions for journalists to be able to cover noteworthy events of interest to the public, such as those involving public protests.

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. 073/16