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Venezuela / Demonstrations: UN experts ask for clarification on alleged arbitrary detentions and use of violence

GENEVA (6 March 2014) – A group of United Nations independent experts* have asked the Government of Venezuela for prompt clarification of allegations of arbitrary detention and excessive use of force and violence against protesters, journalists and media workers during the recent wave of protests in the country.

“The recent violence amid protests in Venezuela need to be urgently and thoroughly investigated, and perpetrators must be held accountable,” the experts stressed. They also expressed their shock at the reported deaths of at least 17 persons during the demonstrations.

“We are deeply disturbed by the allegations of multiple cases of arbitrary detention of protesters. Some were reportedly beaten -and in some cases severely tortured- by security forces, taken to military facilities, kept in incommunicado detention, and denied access to legal assistance,” they said. “These reports need to be urgently clarified and anyone who remains arbitrarily detained should be released without condition.”

The independent experts also drew attention to reports of violence against journalists and media workers monitoring and reporting on demonstrations in Venezuela: “Ensuring full protection to journalists and media workers covering the difficult period experienced by the country today is crucial.”

“The reports of the arbitrary detention of various journalists and the suspension of the broadcasting activities of TV channel NTN24 covering the protests are very worrying,” they said. “The country needs more, not less information on the ongoing protests.”

The human rights experts, who acknowledged the call for a national dialogue made by President Nicolás Maduro, emphasized the importance of fully guaranteeing the rights to freedom of peaceful assembly, association, opinion and expression in this critical context.

“The reconciliatory dialogue that is so deeply needed in Venezuela is not going to take place if political leaders, students, media groups and journalists are harassed and intimidated by the authorities,” they stressed.

The group of UN independent experts noted they stand ready to visit the country and engage in a constructive dialogue with all parties. “We call the Government to respond positively to pending requests to visit Venezuela, and extend a standing invitation to the UN special procedures mandate holders,” they concluded.

(*) The experts: Mr. Frank La Rue, Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of the right to freedom of opinion and expression; Mr. Maina Kiai, Special Rapporteur on the rights to freedom of peaceful assembly and of association; Mr. Mads Andenas, Chair-Rapporteur of the Working Group on arbitrary detention; Mr. Juan Méndez, Special Rapporteur on torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment; Mr. Christof Heyns, Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions; Ms. Margaret Sekaggya, Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights defenders.

The United Nations human rights experts are part of what it is known as the Special Procedures of the Human Rights Council. Special Procedures, the largest body of independent experts in the UN Human Rights, is the general name of the independent fact-finding and monitoring mechanisms of the Human Rights Council that address either specific country situations or thematic issues in all parts of the world.

They are charged by the Human Rights Council to monitor, report and advise on human rights issues. Currently, there are 37 thematic mandates and 14 mandates related to countries and territories, with 72 mandate holders. In March 2014, three new mandates will be added. 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.

Learn more, visit:
Freedom of opinion and expression: http://www.ohchr.org/EN/Issues/FreedomOpinion/Pages/OpinionIndex.aspx
Freedoms of peaceful assembly an association: http://www.ohchr.org/EN/Issues/AssemblyAssociation/Pages/SRFreedomAssemblyAssociationIndex.aspx
Arbitrary detention: http://www.ohchr.org/EN/Issues/Detention/Pages/WGADIndex.aspx
Torture: http://www.ohchr.org/EN/Issues/Torture/SRTorture/Pages/SRTortureIndex.aspx
Summary executions: http://www.ohchr.org/EN/Issues/Executions/Pages/SRExecutionsIndex.aspx
Human rights defenders: http://www.ohchr.org/EN/Issues/SRHRDefenders/Pages/SRHRDefendersIndex.aspx

UN Human Rights, country page – Venezuela: http://www.ohchr.org/EN/Countries/LACRegion/Pages/VEIndex.aspx

For more information and media requests, please contact Marcelo Daher (+41 22 917 9431 / mdaher@ohchr.org) or write to freedex@ohchr.org

For media inquiries related to other UN independent experts:
Xabier Celaya, UN Human Rights – Media Unit (+ 41 22 917 9383 / xcelaya@ohchr.org)

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