Press Release

IACHR Condemns Serious Acts of Violence at National Assembly in Venezuela

July 10, 2017

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Washington, D.C.—The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) condemns the serious acts of violence that took place July 5 at the Federal Legislative Palace, headquarters of the National Assembly, in the context of events to commemorate the 206th anniversary of the signing of the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela’s Declaration of Independence.

According to publicly available information, on the morning of July 5, in commemoration of Independence Day, a crowd of people gathered outside the legislative building, chanting slogans and planning to deliver a document to representatives of the National Assembly; others announced they were setting up a picket in front of the building. A group of armed civilians then stormed violently into the building, and gunshots were fired, explosives devices thrown, and blunt objects used, including wooden sticks, pipes, iron rods, and rocks. One congresswoman and four congressmen are known to have been injured, as were some seven members of legislative staff, members of the media and journalists, and at least three individuals who participated in the violent attack. Some of those present reported that they had personal possessions stolen and that threats were made against those who were documenting and reporting on the unfolding events.

The groups besieged the building for several hours, preventing representatives of the National Assembly, journalists, and legislative staff members from leaving. The Venezuelan Ombudsman announced that this lasted until close to 8 p.m., until the conclusion of the mediation carried out by his office. On July 6, the Public Prosecutor’s Office announced that it was beginning the relevant investigations.

As a result of these events, the President of the National Assembly, Julio Borges, was unable to attend an IACHR hearing that he and others had requested. The hearing, on reports of human rights violations in Venezuela, took place on July 6 in the context of the 163rd special session of the IACHR, held in Lima, Peru.

The Commission categorically condemns the acts of violence described above and notes with concern that similar events had happened before. In the context of the violence Venezuela is experiencing, the Commission has received information about armed groups of civilians that are reportedly responsible for acts of violence that have caused serious injuries and deaths of protesters and passersby, including children and adolescents. The IACHR warns the authorities that it is not enough to condemn violent acts; rather, they have the obligation to adopt the necessary measures to prevent such acts, in addition to investigating them when they occur and prosecuting and punishing those responsible.

The Commission urges the Venezuelan State to comply with its international human rights obligations and reiterates the need to seek a democratic solution to the crisis and to respect and guarantee that the branches of government can function independently, in order to reestablish peace for the people of Venezuela.  

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 defense of 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. 092/17