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Venezuela unrest: Pillay urges respect for human rights, and halt to inflammatory rhetoric

GENEVA (28 February 2014) – UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay on Friday condemned the violence that has occurred over several weeks of unrest in Venezuela and urged the Government to ensure respect for freedom of expression and peaceful assembly.

“The inflammatory rhetoric from all sides is utterly unhelpful and risks escalating the tense situation in the country,” Pillay stressed. “It is time for all sides to move beyond verbal aggression and towards meaningful dialogue. This crisis will only be resolved if the human rights of all Venezuelans are respected.”

Pillay also expressed deep concern at the reported excessive use of force by the authorities in response to protests, including those that took place in Caracas yesterday. The High Commissioner unequivocally condemned the violence leading to death and injuries, irrespective of the perpetrators. She called on all sides to renounce the use of violence.

At least 140 people have been injured and 13 people have died since the beginning of the unrest, according to the General Public Prosecutor.
Noting that 11 police and intelligence officers have been arrested in connection with violence during the protests, she urged an impartial, full and independent investigation into every case of death and injury, and for those responsible to be brought to justice.

According to the latest knownofficial figures, 579 people have been arrested since the unrest in the country began earlier this month.

“I am concerned that a very large number of people have been arrested and we have reports indicating that some of them are being held incommunicado. I urge the authorities to ensure that people are not penalised for exercising their rights to peaceful assembly and to freedom of expression,” said Pillay.

“Those who are being detained merely for exercising these rights must be promptly released. All cases must be handled according to international standards of due process.”

“Concrete action by the authorities, including through full and independent investigations, releasing peaceful protestors who have been detained, as well as disarming armed groups, will go a long way towards defusing tensions and paving the ground for a way through the crisis,” the High Commissioner said.

Pillay stressed that the Government must ensure that law enforcement officials act in line with international standards at all times and under any circumstances.

The High Commissioner said that her office would continue to closely monitor the situation in the country and stood ready to assist the Government in fulfilling its human rights obligations under international human rights treaties.

ENDS

For more information or media requests, please contact Ravina Shamdasani (+41 22 917 9169 / rshamdasani@ohchr.org) or Cécile Pouilly (+41 22 917 9310 / cpouilly@ohchr.org )