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Press briefing note on Venezuela and Bahrein

Spokesperson for the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights: Liz Throssell
Location:   Geneva
Date: 14 July 2017
Subject:    (1) Venezuela (2) Bahrain

(1) Venezuela

The situation in Venezuela continues to be of deep concern, and we again urge all in the country to use only peaceful means to make themselves heard.

We note that a public consultation is due to take place this Sunday, organised by the opposition-led National Assembly and other groups, on questions including President Nicolas Maduro’s plans to rewrite the constitution. We urge authorities to respect the wishes of those who want to participate in this consultation and to guarantee people’s rights to freedom of expression, association and peaceful assembly.

Since 1 April, some 92 people have died and another 1,519 have been injured – in connection with the ongoing protests, according to the latest available figures from the Attorney General’s Office. The number of injured individuals is however estimated to be much higher. It is vital that the Government takes steps to ensure that the security forces, including the Bolivarian National Guard and the Bolivarian National Police, do not use excessive force against demonstrators and that they operate in line with international human rights standards in managing demonstrations.

We have received accounts from several sources that some members of the Venezuelan security forces have used repressive tactics, intimidating and instilling fear, to try to deter people from demonstrating. In addition, thousands of demonstrators are reported to have been arbitrarily detained, and we are very concerned that more than 450 civilians have reportedly been brought before military tribunals. We urge the Government to immediately end this practice, which is against international human rights law, particularly due process guarantees. Civilians accused of a crime or an illegal act should appear before a civilian court. All those who have been arbitrarily detained should be released.

We appeal to all sides in Venezuela to renounce violence and the harassment of opponents. In this regard, we condemn all acts of violence such as the explosion on 10 July that injured seven National Guard officers in the Altamira area of Caracas.

We express our hope that Sunday’s consultation will proceed peacefully and in the full respect of the human rights of all.

(2) Bahrain

We are deeply concerned that Nabeel Rajab, a co-founder of the Bahrain Center for Human Rights, was sentenced on 10 July to two years in prison simply for exercising his right to freedom of expression and opinion. We understand that he faces a further trial on separate charges also related to his exercise of his right to freedom of expression.

We have raised our concerns with the Government of Bahrain on several occasions about the arrest and subsequent detention of Mr Rajab, who was found guilty and sentenced for “publishing and disseminating false news, statements and rumours about the internal situation of the kingdom that would undermine its prestige and status”.

Human rights defenders in Bahrain must be able to carry out their work without fear of reprisals, and should not face detention or prosecution for exercising their right to freedom of expression. Criticising the Government should not be a crime.

We note that Mr Rajab has been detention since June 2016. We call on the Bahraini authorities to immediately and unconditionally release him. 

The continuing restrictions on civil society and political activists and the targeting of human rights defenders and organisations in Bahrain are deeply worrying. We urge the Government to take the necessary steps to ensure compliance with Bahrain’s obligations under international human rights law, in particular to guarantee the freedoms of expression, opinion and association and the right not to be arbitrarily deprived of liberty.

ENDS

For more information and media requests, please contact Liz Throssell (+41 22 917 9466/ethrossell@ohchr.org)

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