Press Release

IACHR Condemns the Escalation of Attacks against Members of the Venezuelan National Assembly

14 May, 2019

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Kingston, Jamaica—During its 172nd Period of Sessions, the IACHR received worrying information regarding the escalation of attacks against members of the Venezuelan National Assembly. In view of the worsening of the political and human rights crisis that Venezuela is experiencing, the IACHR calls on the state to restore people’s fundamental freedoms and human rights; re-establish the democratic rule of law; and guarantee the immunity of members of the legislature and the separation of powers.

Against this backdrop, the IACHR learned with the concern of the actions taken by the Supreme Court of Justice on May 2, 7, and 8, 2019, immediately following the fiscal proceedings filed against several deputies to the National Assembly, by virtue of which the parliamentary immunity of nine representatives was suspended for supposed crimes such as “treason, conspiracy, inciting rebellion, civil uprising, criminal conspiracy, misuse of public office, publicly inciting civil disobedience, and continued hatred.” On these grounds, the vice president of the Assembly, Deputy Edgar Zambrano, was arrested on May 8, 2019, by the Bolivarian National Intelligence Service (Sebin). The IACHR wishes to observe that this constitutes serious interference with the legislature with the aim of hindering its exercise of its constitutional functions.

The arrest of Deputy Zambrano follows that of Deputy Gilber Caro, who was arrested on April 26 by intelligence officers in the state of Miranda and whose whereabouts remain unknown; that of Deputy Juan Requesens, who was arrested on August 7, 2018; and the recent arrest and incommunicado detention of Roberto Marrero, chief of staff of Deputy Juan Guaidó, who the National Assembly has appointed acting president of Venezuela.

The IACHR received additional information regarding an allegedly widespread initiative in the country that entails graffitied threats containing texts such as “We’ve got you, we’re after you. Colectivos [left-wing community groups]”; “Raúl Pages, cocksucker, you’re next”; “We’re coming for you, colectivos”; “Virgilio, your days are numbered.” These threats allegedly appeared simultaneously outside the houses of at least 15 representatives from different states.

At time in which members of the National Assembly have been assaulted, arrested, and held in incommunicado detention, and with the assembly itself operating without a budget, the IACHR granted precautionary measures in favor of Juan Gerardo Guaidó Márquez, president of the National Assembly, who was recognized as acting president of the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela in January 2019. These precautionary measures were then extended to Guaidó’s chief of staff, Roberto Marrero, and Sergio Vergara, deputy to the National Assembly. The IACHR urges the state to take the necessary measures to protect these people’s rights to life and personal integrity and to guarantee their safety. It had previously granted other precautionary measures to protect members of the National Assembly from the harassment and aggression they have faced, in some cases whilst being deprived of their liberty, and in view of the stigmatizing statements from high-ranking authorities that have created an atmosphere of animosity that may lead to their rights being affected. The beneficiaries of these precautionary measures include Julio Borges, Tomás Guanipa, Luis Florido, and José Guerra, who were at the time president and deputies to the National Assembly, respectively; Williams Dávila, then deputy for the state of Mérida; and Juan Carlos Requesens Martínez, a representative of the Primero Justicia political party and a deputy to the National Assembly at the time.

The IACHR categorically condemns the attacks on the National Assembly and its members and urges state institutions to refrain from making decisions that may affect the separation of powers and representative democracy. It also calls for the rights of the deputies and the chief of staff of the acting president who are under arrest to be respected, including the right to personal freedom. The IACHR calls upon the Supreme Court of Justice and the Constituent National Assembly to cease their interference in the work of the National Assembly, which was elected democratically to respect the parliamentary immunity of its members and to guarantee the exercise of their constitutional mandates.

The IACHR notes that the grave human rights crisis in Venezuela has been unfolding against the backdrop of a state of exception that is characterized by the abusive use of public forces to repress dissidents, the imprisonment or exile of opposition forces and demonstrators; and restrictions on freedom of expression. In the last week of April and early May, at least five people, including three teenagers, were reportedly killed, and 273 people, including 19 teenagers, were allegedly arrested during protests. The IACHR urges the state of Venezuela to cease the violent repression of protests; to refrain from using military forces, special police units, and other armed groups to repress the population; to refrain from arbitrarily detaining and prosecuting demonstrators; to ensure the prompt release of political prisoners; and to protect the life of all people under its jurisdiction. Likewise, it urges Venezuela to take all necessary steps to investigate and punish those responsible for the human rights violations described above.

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. 115/19