Press Release

IACHR Calls on the Republic of Venezuela to Guarantee the Right to Protest and to Public Demonstrations

January 23, 2019

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Washington, D.C. - In response to the call for demonstrations scheduled for January 23 and the serious events that occurred in previous mobilizations in the country, the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) reminds the Republic of Venezuela that the exercise of social protest and freedom of expression are fundamental pillars in democratic societies, as well as a tool for people to express their demands in the face of the serious political, social, and economic crisis facing the country.

The IACHR notes that since January 10, the crisis in Venezuela has taken on new dimensions. On that day, Nicolás Maduro was sworn in for a new term after being proclaimed in elections held without the minimum guarantees to be considered free and fair, as pointed out by the IACHR. The elections were declared to lack legitimacy by the OAS, the European Union, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights and the Lima Group. The inauguration took place in the headquarters of the Superior Court of Justice and not in the National Assembly in accordance with the provisions of the Political Constitution. The National Assembly declared itself in emergency in view of what it considered a usurpation of the office of President of the Republic, and called for the restitution of the constitutional order. On January 13, the President of the National Assembly, Juan Guaidó, was arrested and subsequently released by agents of the Bolivarian Intelligence Service (SEBIN), in what government officials described as an "irregular" procedure.

The IACHR reiterates that the State should refrain from any action that restricts the exercise of freedom of expression, and must facilitate the exercise of the right to social protest. The repression of social protest through the excessive use of force, as well as the blocking or suspension of websites, online platforms and Internet applications can lead to serious violations of the right to life and personal integrity and constitute serious restrictions on freedom of association, the right to public demonstration and freedom of expression. Demonstrations and protests calling for democracy and for the satisfaction of basic needs of the population constitute a legitimate exercise of these rights.

The IACHR calls on the State to guarantee that in social mobilizations carried out in exercise of the right to peaceful assembly and demonstration, the rights to life, personal integrity and personal liberty of all those who demonstrate, especially children and adolescents, are protected. As the IACHR has repeatedly pointed out, during protests, the State should refrain from excessive use of force, particularly the use of lethal weapons and military corps. Likewise, it must prohibit and punish the actions of members of armed civilian collectives. The Commission will continue to monitor the human rights situation in Venezuela and reiterates to the State the request for consent to carry out an on-site visit.

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. 012/19