Human Rights Watch Urges the Union of South American Nations (Unasur) To Respond To Venezuelan Abuses / 14ymedio

New York | June 26, 2014 — The organization Human Rights Watch, in a letter to the foreign ministers of several Latin American nations, today called on the Union of South American Nations (UNASUR) “to urge the Venezuelan government to immediately address the grave human rights situation in the country.”

The letter is the corollary to a report by the organization titled “Punished for Protesting: Human Rights Violations in the Streets, Detention Centers, and Justice System of Venezuela,” about the situation in the South American country since the start of the demonstrations on February 12.

“While various international organizations, including human rights rapporteurs of the United Nations and the European Parliament, have expressed concern about human rights violations in Venezuela, UNASUR has not condemned the serious abuses committed by Venezuelan state agents,” said the letter from José Miguel Vivanco, Director for the Americas at Human Rights Watch.

The letter was sent to foreign ministers Héctor Timerman of Argentina, Luiz Alberto Figueiredo Machado of Brazil, Heraldo Muñoz of Chile; Maria Angela Holguin of Colombia, Ricardo Patino of Ecuador; Gonzalo Gutierrez Reinel of Peru, and Luis Almagro of Uruguay.

Citing “the absence of an independent judiciary in Venezuela that can curb government abuses . . .” the letter “urges the Administration of (President Nicolas) Maduro to protect the rights of the protesters,” referring to the UNASUR Constitutional Treaty of 2008.

The treaty provides that “the founding of the South American union is based on the guiding principles of democracy, citizen participation and pluralism, (and) universal, indivisible, and interdependent human rights,” the letter recalled from the organization in defense of human rights.

In its report, Human Rights Watch highlights abuses that occurred during demonstrations in Venezuela and documents how the National Guard, the Bolivarian National Police, and state police forces have “routinely applied illegitimate force against unarmed protesters and even bystanders.”

According to the organization, some of the attacks carried out by Venezuelan security forces included “severe beatings and the indiscriminate discharge of firearms, shotguns, and tear gas into crowds.”

The report also notes that “in many cases, detainees were held incommunicado at military bases for 48 hours or longer before being brought before a judge,” and that during that time suffered mistreatment that “clearly constituted torture.”

“Venezuela has responded to protests by resorting to excessive use of force, and judicial officials have been complicit in abuses committed by members of the security forces. Dialogue is now stagnant, and the intervention of UNASUR has not led to concrete results to improve the human rights situation in the country,” asserts Human Rights Watch.

They add that the abuses have gone beyond citizens to affect “journalists and others who photographed and filmed the repression,” the report concludes.

The document notes that President Maduro and the Venezuelan Attorney General, Luisa Ortega Díaz, have recognized that members of the security forces committed human rights violations, and have publicly undertaken to investigate these cases, but Human Rights Watch believes that “there is reason to doubt the credibility of these investigations.”

Translated by Tomás A.