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Clash at UN Assembly

Clash at UN Assembly: Venezuela Objects as Aunt of Jailed Opposition Leader Calls for Urgent Human Rights Council Debate

GENEVA, March 7, 2014 - Venezuela's representative to the UN Human Rights Council vociferously objected today when the aunt of jailed opposition leader Leopoldo Lopez, speaking on behalf of the non-governmental human rights group UN Watch, called on the 47-nation body to convene an urgent debate on the escalating situation and to dispatch a commission of inquiry.

Immediately following the clash, UN Watch submitted to U.S. Ambassador Samantha Power and EU foreign affairs chief Catherine Ashton a draft letter that would convene an urgent debate on Venezuela, as well as a draft resolution to condemn Venezuela's violations of human rights, suspend the government of president Nicolas Maduro from the Human Rights Council, and create a commission of inquiry.

"The leading democracies must take action now to ensure the UN upholds its obligations to protect the human rights of the Venezuelan people," said Hillel Neuer, executive director of UN Watch.

Julieta Lopez, who lives in Geneva, took the floor today during an interactive dialogue with UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay, part of a 4-week session that saw Venezuelan foreign Minister Elias Jaua meet Ban Ki-moon on Monday.

“Madam High Commissioner, the alarming situation in Venezuela is very personal for me,” said Ms. Lopez. “You have spoken of the large number of people arrested for exercising their rights to peaceful assembly and to freedom of expression. Well, my nephew, opposition leader Leopoldo Lopez, is one of those people."

"For peacefully exercising [his basic] human rights last month, Leopoldo -- a husband and father of two little children -- was arrested and placed in a military prison, in a 2 by 3 meter prison cell. He sleeps on the floor. He is allowed minimal access to sunlight and fresh air," Lopez told the assembly.

Lopez thanked Pillay for calling earlier this week for an "impartial, full and independent investigation into every single case of death and injury" in Venezuela. Lopez also noted that six of the Council's independent experts yesterday echoed the appeal.

Venezuelan delegate Edgardo Torro Careño interrupted as soon as Lopez called for the Council to hold an urgent debate.

"We apologize for interrupting this session, but we found ourselves obliged to take the floor on a point of order given that we are currently assessing the report of the High Commissioner which was presented to the Human Rights Council, and we are not on item 4 of the agenda discussing the situation of human rights which require the attention of the Council."

UN Watch dismissed the objection, saying that its statement was fully appropriate.

"It's time for the council to stop turning a blind eye to the escalating human rights crisis in Venezuela, which has already claimed hundreds of casualties. We need to see an urgent debate, the adoption of a resolution, and the undoing of the council's shameful election of Venezuela last year as one of its members," said Neuer.


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