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Venezuela assassination: Zeid urges protection for opposition politicians and other dissenting voices

GENEVA (27 November 2015) – In the wake of the assassination of a Venezuelan opposition leader, Luis Diaz, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein on Friday called on Venezuelan authorities to ensure that political opponents, human rights defenders and others facing threats in relation to their work are adequately protected.

When Diaz was shot, he was sharing the stage with the campaigner and activist Lilian Tintori, who is married to jailed opposition leader Leopoldo Lopez. It is not clear whether or not she was also a target, but she has allegedly been the subject of other attacks and threats. The detention of Lopez, who received a prison sentence of just under 14 years, was declared arbitrary by the UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention in August 2014.

“As I reminded President Maduro during his recent visit to the Human Rights Council in Geneva, a sovereign State must defend and protect individuals who criticise and question the policies and practices of the State. Democracy suffers greatly when the pre-election environment is marred by violence, threats and intimidation,” the High Commissioner said.

The UN Human Rights Committee, which has recently reviewed Venezuela’s compliance with the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, expressed concerns about intimidation, threats and attacks against journalists, human rights defenders and lawyers.

“I urge the authorities to ensure that the investigation into Luis Diaz’s murder is independent and impartial and brings to justice the perpetrators, as well as the masterminds behind the assassination,” Zeid said. “All sides must refrain from violence and violent rhetoric in the run up to the elections.”