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Venezuela: UN experts condemn widespread rights

violations reported during protests

GENEVA (21 March 2019) - Human rights violations which are reported to
have taken place during protests in Venezuela have been condemned by
UN human rights experts* as systematic and pervasive.
“We are deeply concerned about the rapidly deteriorating economic, social
and political situation in Venezuela and call upon the authorities to take
urgent and immediate measures to address this complex crisis, with full
respect for their international human rights obligations,” the experts said.
“Freedom of expression and assembly is essential so that the legitimate
concerns of citizens can be heard and their needs, including their human
rights, addressed.
“We have received consistent reports of a systematic and pervasive
disregard for human rights displayed by the Venezuelan authorities during
their crackdown on protesters, journalists and human rights defenders.
We call upon the Government to respect and protect the right to freedom
of peaceful assembly and to address the underlying causes for the
demonstrations.”
The demonstrators have been protesting over lack of access to basic
services, such as healthcare, medication, food and water, and calling for
democratic change.
The ongoing crackdown on them has reportedly resulted in a dramatic rise
in arbitrary detentions, killings, raids and torture.
Between 21 and 29 January, reports say more than 1,000 people including
minors were arbitrarily detained in connection with the protests. Most of
those arrested were reportedly kept incommunicado for days, without
access to family or legal representation.
“We are particularly concerned about reports indicating that 26 people
were killed by security forces and pro-government paramilitary groups
while taking part in demonstrations between 22 and 25 January,” the
experts said.
The security forces have allegedly used live ammunition, rubber bullets
and buckshot on crowds. The country’s hospitals reportedly lack sufficient
medical resources to treat the injured.
Journalists and media outlets are also said to have been specifically
targeted. Reports say internet services have frequently been partially or
totally disrupted. On 23 January alone, 17 journalists reported attacks,
detentions and confiscation of equipment. That same day, access to social
media sites was disrupted and three media outlets were reportedly raided
by civil and military authorities, resulting in destruction and confiscation
of equipment preventing broadcasters from transmitting.
On 29 and 30 January, 11 journalists were allegedly arbitrarily detained.
Four of them were later deported and, between the beginning of February
and the first week of March, at least 20 more were said to have been
arbitrarily arrested.
Indigenous communities are also reported to have suffered at the hands
of authorities, with a number of injuries and deaths allegedly resulting
from the use of live ammunition by the Bolivarian National Guard in
Kumarakapay and Santa Elena de Uairén.
“We call upon the Venezuelan authorities to conduct an immediate,
impartial and effective investigation into all deaths which have occurred
during the ongoing protests, and to release all of those who have been
detained for legitimately exercising their human rights to freedom of
expression and peaceful assembly,” the experts said.
“We urge the Government to take immediate measures to remedy the
situation, including by allowing critical and dissenting voices to be heard
in Venezuela, without fear of retaliation, threats, violence or other
harassment.”
ENDS
(*)The UN experts: Mr. David Kaye, Special Rapporteur on the
promotion and protection of the right to freedom of opinion and
expression; Ms. Agnes Callamard, Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial,
summary or arbitrary executions; Mr. Clément Nyaletsossi
Voule, Special Rapporteur on the rights to peaceful assembly and of
association; Mr. Michel Forst, Special Rapporteur on the situation of
human rights defenders; Mr. Nils Melzer, Special Rapporteur on torture
and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment; Mr.
Seong-Phil Hong, Chair-Rapporteur, Working Group on Arbitrary
Detention; Mr. Dainius Pῡras, Special Rapporteur on the right to
health; Ms. Victoria Tauli Corpuz, Special Rapporteur on the rights of
indigenous peoples; Mr.Joseph Cannataci, Special Rapporteur on the
right to privacy.
The Working Groups and Special Rapporteurs are part of what is known
as the Special Procedures of the Human Rights Council. Special
Procedures, the largest body of independent experts in the UN Human
Rights system, is the general name of the Council’s independent fact-
finding and monitoring mechanisms that address either specific country
situations or thematic issues in all parts of the world. Special Procedures
experts work on a voluntary basis; they are not UN staff and do not receive
a salary for their work. They are independent from any government or
organization and serve in their individual capacity.

For more information and media requests please contact: Mr. Jack Pope
(+41 22 917 9278 / spdconsultant@ohchr.org) or write
to freedex@ohchr.org.
For media inquiries related to other UN independent experts:
Mr. Jeremy Laurence, UN Human Rights – Media Unit (+ 41 22 917 9383
/ jlaurence@ohchr.org)