Press Release

IACHR Asks Venezuela to Adopt Protection Measures in Favor of Pemon Indigenous Persons and of a Bare Indigenous Rights Defender

March 1, 2019

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Washington, D.C. - The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) issued Resolution 7/2019 on February 28, 2019, to grant precautionary measures in favor of indigenous persons of the Pemon ethnic group in the San Francisco de Yuruaní or “Kumaracapay” community of the Gran Sabana municipality, in the state of Bolívar, and of Bare indigenous rights defender Olnar Ortiz, all of them in Venezuela, in the belief that they face a serious, urgent risk of suffering irreparable damage to their rights.

According to the request, the rights of indigenous persons of the Pemon ethnic group in the San Francisco de Yuruaní or “Kumaracapay” community and of Bare indigenous rights defender Olnar Ortiz are at risk after they took part in events at the Brazilian border on February 22-23, 2019, in connection with efforts to get humanitarian aid into Venezuela.

When it made its decision, the Commission took into consideration the exceptional current context in the State of Venezuela and the possibility that the events in question were a consequence of actions carried out by the community to receive “humanitarian aid” on the border between Venezuela and Brazil. Such events allegedly involved an excessive use of force and the participation of groups that the people who requested these precautionary measures called “colectivos.” According to the request, acts of violence were verified at various sites in the Gran Sabana municipality, including inside the San Francisco de Yuruaní community (where one woman was killed), in the border area (where three people allegedly died) and at a hospital that was allegedly attacked. The Commission observes that those risky events allegedly targeted members of the Pemon indigenous people in the San Francisco de Yuruaní or “Kumaracapay” community and all allegedly happened within just two days. According to the allegations of the people who filed the request, “a new raid by military personnel against indigenous persons is imminent,” in an atmosphere of growing tension caused by militarization in the area.

Consequently, in keeping with Article 25 of the IACHR’s Rules of Procedure, the Commission asked the State of Venezuela to adopt any measures necessary to protect the rights to life and personal integrity and to preserve the safety of indigenous persons of the Pemon ethnic group in the San Francisco de Yuruaní or “Kumaracapay” community, as well as of Bare indigenous rights defender Olnar Ortiz. Among such measures, the Commission asked the State of Venezuela to ensure that its officers respect beneficiaries’ rights and refrain from using force in any way incompatible with the applicable international standards; to protect beneficiaries’ rights from likely events that might be perpetrated by third parties in the current context; in particular, to implement culturally appropriate security measures in the area, to prevent risky events that might otherwise be perpetrated by third parties; to implement protection measures for the families of Pemon indigenous persons killed on February 22-23, 2019; and to provide adequate medical assistance to Pemon indigenous persons in the community who were injured in the area on February 22-23, 2019.

In its resolution, the Commission noted that, in keeping with Article 25.5 of its Rules of Procedure, it will reassess the need to keep this precautionary measure in force or to lift it based on any information provided by the State of Venezuela.

The fact that this precautionary measure has been granted and its adoption by the State do not entail a prejudgment on a potential petition that may be filed before the Inter-American system to allege violations of rights protected by the American Declaration and other applicable instruments.

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. 056/19