Venezuela: Torture and Ill-Treatment by Security Forces

At least 14 people died in these demonstrations in circumstances that have yet to be clarified. As many as 200 were wounded. Several of those detained were severely ill-treated or tortured by members of the security forces.

Amnesty International said:

'Many demonstrations were violent with the use of barricades, stones, Molotov cocktails and in some cases, firearms. However, the response of the security forces frequently involved excessive use of force, contributing to spiralling violence rather than preventing or controlling it.'

Subsequent investigations to establish the facts around these alleged abuses have been slow and inadequate. Amnesty International added:

'There are serious questions about the commitment of key institutions to investigate and prevent human rights abuses impartially. Failure to ensure that these institutions carry out their duties effectively and impartially will weaken the fragile rule of law and fuel Venezuela's political crisis.'

In recent decades, there have been repeated incidents of human rights violations and impunity in Venezuela in the context of mass civil disturbances. The human rights organisation said:

'Many of the weaknesses in security, police and judicial institutions predate the present administration and crisis. However, their lack of impartiality threatens to strengthen the culture of impunity that has accompanied human rights abuses for many years in Venezuela.'

With the political crisis still unresolved, the potential for future violent clashes and human rights violations is all too high, so its vital that both government, opposition and their respective supporters do not encourage human rights abuses or undermine the rule of law, and clearly restrict themselves to their right to peaceful demonstrations and assembly.

Amnesty International concluded:

'Key institutions such as the Police, National Guard, Attorney General's Office, Judiciary and Human Rights Ombudsman's Office have to impartially uphold the rule of law, only then will Venezuela be able to construct a society where the rights of all are protected.'

Background Information

Violence erupted at the end of February 2004 when the opposition supporters began widespread protests at the decision of the Consejo Nacional Electoral (National Electoral Council) not to recognise the validity of signatures on a petition gathered by the opposition to trigger a recall referendum against President Chavez.

At least 14 people were killed, in circumstances that have yet to be clarified, during 6 days of demonstrations involving pro- and anti-government protestors. As many as 200 people were wounded. More than 500 detentions were made and several of those detained were severely ill-treated or tortured by members of the security forces.

Read the Report: 'Venezuela: Human rights under threat'

For more information on Amnesty’s recommendations to the Venezuelan authorities, please see 'Venezuela: A human rights agenda for the current crisis' /p>

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