Venezuela: Concern at potential for repression
Venezuela: UN rights expert concerned at potential for repression in Sunday’s ‘Sovereign Consultation’
GENEVA (14 July 2017) – Venezuelan authorities must ensure compliance with international human rights standards during an unofficial public vote on President Nicolás Maduro’s planned constitutional changes on Sunday 16 July, a United Nations expert has stressed.
“I am deeply concerned at the pattern of violence displayed in similar circumstances by the police and National Guard that could be again applied in the context of this consultation,” said the UN Special Rapporteur on the rights to freedom of peaceful assembly and association, Annalisa Ciampi,
An estimated six to eight million people are expected to take part in the opposition-organized ‘Sovereign Consultation’ on the president’s decision to convene a National Constitutional Assembly. Opposition groups say the president’s move breaches the Constitution.
Ms. Ciampi highlighted reported attacks on voting centres by armed pro-government civilians who have been active during protests over the past few months. “Such attacks severely violate the rights to freedom of peaceful assembly and expression,” she stressed.
“I am also worried about the alleged intimidation of protesters and opposition members by public officers,” the expert said. “Coercion is never an answer to the legitimate demands for democracy and to people’s expression of frustrations against the background of economic and social unrest triggered by increasing poverty and deteriorating living conditions.”
During the past three and half months, over 90 people have lost their lives in the almost daily demonstrations against the Government.
The UN Special Rapporteur reiterated the call previously made by a group of UN human rights experts in late April, to facilitate the exercise of the right of peaceful assembly and to ensure a constructive dialogue between the people and their representatives.
“The Venezuelan authorities should not interfere with peaceful demonstrations, and indeed are obliged to actively protect assemblies,” she noted. “They should facilitate the exercise of people’s rights to peaceful assembly and freedom of expression.”
Ms. Ciampi appealed to the Venezuelan authorities “to heed the stringent tenets of international human rights standards and refrain from resorting to violence”.