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Venezuela: Health emergency no excuse to further restrict human rights, say UN experts

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GENEVA (30 April 2020) – UN human rights experts* said today they are alarmed that increasing threats, attacks and charges against journalists, health workers and others in Venezuela could deter those working to safeguard human rights.

"We are deeply concerned about what appears to be an intensification of the stigmatisation, attacks and criminalisation of human rights defenders since the state of health emergency was declared on 13 March,” the experts said.

Access to information for the population on the scale of the health crisis and the measures taken by the Government is a key right at this time. Therefore, the authorities must refrain from taking any kind of reprisals against health professionals, social communicators and individuals using social networks that provide information and warn the population about the pandemic.

"We are even more concerned about the deterrent effect this may have on the legitimate work of human rights defenders working to safeguard human rights in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic and during an election year, where the exercise of freedom of expression and information is essential,” the experts said.

Public support for those who defend human rights and journalists without discrimination is vital to enable the promotion and protection of human rights.

“We urge the government of Venezuela to promote spaces for dialogue while reaffirming its commitment to human rights and not to adopt legislation further restricting freedom of association, through sanctions on civil society organizations receiving international funding,” the experts said.

The experts have contacted the Government of Venezuela with their concerns.

ENDS

(*) The experts: Mr. Michel Forst (France), Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights defenders; Mr. David Kaye (USA), Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of the right to freedom of opinion and expression and Mr. Clement Nyaletsossi Voule (Togo), Special Rapporteur on the right to peaceful assembly and association, The Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of human rights and fundamental freedoms while countering terrorism, Ms. Fionnuala D. Ní Aoláin (Ireland); Special Rapporteur on the right to physical and mental health, Dainius Pūras (Lithuania) and The Working Group on Arbitrary Detention: Mr. José Antonio Guevara Bermúdez (Mexico; Chair-Rapporteur), Ms Elina Steinerte (Latvia; Vice-Chair on Follow-up), Ms Leigh Toomey (Australia; Vice-Chair on Communications), Mr. Sètondji Roland Adjovi (Benin) and Mr. Seong-Phil Hong (the Republic of Korea).

The Special Rapporteurs are part of 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 Councils 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 organisation and serve in their individual capacity.

UN Human Rights, Country Page Venezuela

For more information and media requests please contact Ms Jimena Leyva Becerra-Acosta (+41 22 917 9540 / spbconsultant3@ohchr.org) or defenders@ohchr.org

For media enquiries regarding other UN independent experts, please contact Xabier Celaya (+ 41 22 917 9445 / xcelaya@ohchr.org)

Follow news related to the UNs independent human rights experts on Twitter @UN_SPExperts.

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