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Venezuela: Human Rights Under Threat

Venezuela: Human Rights Under Threat

News Release Issued by the International Secretariat of Amnesty International

AI INDEX: AMR 53/008/2004
12 May 2004

Venezuela: Human rights under threat

All parties involved in the political conflict in Venezuela must show real commitment to respecting the rule of law if they are to break the violence cycle. In a new report launched today, Amnesty International highlights cases of excessive use of force, torture and ill-treatment committed by security forces in the context of demonstrations that took place between February and March 2004 and raises serious questions about the commitment of key institutions to prevent and punish such abuses impartially. (View the full report online at http://amnesty-news.c.topica.com/maace3faa6No6bb0hPub/ )

At least 14 people died in these demonstrations in circumstances that have yet to be clarified. As many as 200 were wounded. Several of those detained were severely ill-treated or tortured by members of the security forces.

"Many demonstrations were violent with the use of barricades, stones, Molotov cocktails and in some cases, firearms," said Amnesty International. "However, the response of the security forces frequently involved excessive use of force, contributing to spiralling violence rather than preventing or controlling it."

Subsequent investigations to establish the facts around these alleged abuses have been slow and inadequate. "There are serious questions about the commitment of key institutions to investigate and prevent human rights abuses impartially. Failure to ensure that these institutions carry out their duties effectively and impartially will weaken the fragile rule of law and fuel Venezuela's political crisis," added the human rights organization.

In recent decades, there have been repeated incidents of human rights violations and impunity in Venezuela in the context of mass civil disturbances.

"Many of the weaknesses in security, police and judicial institutions predate the present administration and crisis. However, their lack of impartiality threatens to strengthen the culture of impunity that has accompanied human rights abuses for many years in Venezuela", said Amnesty International.

With the political crisis still unresolved, the potential for future violent clashes and human rights violations is all too high, so its vital that both government, opposition and their respective supporters do not encourage human rights abuses or undermine the rule of law, and clearly restrict themselves to their right to peaceful demonstrations and assembly.

"Key institutions such as the Police, National Guard, Attorney General's Office, Judiciary and Human Rights Ombudsman's Office have to impartially uphold the rule of law, only then will Venezuela be able to construct a society where the rights of all are protected", concluded Amnesty International.

Background Information

Violence erupted at the end of February 2004 when the opposition supporters began widespread protests at the decision of the Consejo Nacional Electoral (National Electoral Council) not to recognize the validity of signatures on a petition gathered by the opposition to trigger a recall referendum against President Chavez. At least 14 people were killed, in circumstances that have yet to be clarified, during 6 days of demonstrations involving pro- and anti-government protestors. As many as 200 people were wounded. More than 500 detentions were made and several of those detained were severely ill-treated or tortured by members of the security forces.

For a full copy of the report "Venezuela: Human rights under threat", please see: http://amnesty-news.c.topica.com/maace3faa6No6bb0hPub/

For more information on AI recommendations to the Venezuelan authorities, please see "Venezuela: A human rights agenda for the current crisis", http://amnesty-news.c.topica.com/maace3faa6No7bb0hPub/

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