Venezuelan Defenders Face Criminalisation

Marino Alvarado
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In March 2022, NGOs Provea and Centro Gumilla published a report exposing possible extrajudicial executions committed by police officers in Carabobo state, Venezuela, and calling for chain of command accountability. In response, the governor of the state -who would be in included in this chain of command responsibility- filed a defamation lawsuit against two members of said NGOs, Marino Alvarado and Alfredo Infante. Both Marino and Alfredo are respected and tireless human rights defenders in Venezuela.
This report is published within the joint project “Lupa por la Vida”, which monitors violations of the right to life at the national level, focused on extrajudicial executions by state security forces. Not only did it shed light on possible extrajudicial executions by state police officers in Carabobo, but it concluded Carabobo police forces has been the most lethal in 2021 in Venezuela.

The report and the public statements made by its spokespeople, Marino Alvarado and Alfredo Infante, specifically called for investigations into possible extrajudicial executions committed by the National Bolivarian Police (PNB), the Scientific, Penal and Criminal Investigations Unit (CICPC), and the state police forces of the states of Zulia and Carabobo. In light of the open investigation by the Office of the Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court into crimes against humanity in Venezuela, the human rights defenders stressed the importance of including chain of command responsibility in all criminal investigations. 

Nicolás Maduro government has continually harassed, prosecuted and censored activists and civil society organizations working to protect the rights of Venezuelans amidst a humanitarian complex crisis and a deep human rights crisis that is has led over 6.1 million fleeing the country in search of safety and protect abroad. 

These attacks are not isolated. Since the beginning of 2021, civil society in Venezuela has reported a new crackdown against human rights activists and human rights defenders, focusing on criminalizing international cooperation and attempting to implement new repressive mechanisms over civil society in the country in 2021, and more recently in May 2022. Another Venezuelan human rights defender and prisoner of conscience, Javier Tarazona, director of NGO FundaREDES, remains arbitrarily detain and in critical need of medical attention.  

In 2020 and 2021, reports from the UN independent international fact-finding mission on Venezuela documented hundreds of cases of extrajudicial executions; enforced disappearances; arbitrary detentions; and torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment committed in the country since 2014, and concluded that these grave human rights violations may amount to crimes against humanity. They also documented how the Venezuelan justice system is utilised to carry out and mask these human rights violations, ensuring the impunity of perpetrators including the highest-raking authorities.

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