|Venezuelan opposition leader Germán Mavare|
IACHR Condemns Murder of Opposition Leader in Venezuela
May 16, 2016
Washington, D.C. - The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) condemns the killing of Germán Mavare, a political leader and secretary of popular participation of the opposition party Un Nuevo Tiempo, in Venezuela. The IACHR also expresses its deep concern regarding the attacks and acts of harassment directed against individuals who participate in marches and other protest activities.
According to publicly available information, Germán Mavare received a gunshot to the head on May 5, 2016, in the state of Lara. He had been handing out invitations to attend a political event in Barquisimeto, where the president of Un Nuevo Tiempo and first vice president of the Venezuelan National Assembly, Enrique Márquez, would be speaking. Germán Mavare reportedly died after being taken to a health center, according to remarks made to the press by Guillermo Palacios, a member of the Latin American Parliament, who stated that Germán Mavare had previously received death threats.
The IACHR notes that according to press reports, Venezuela’s Attorney General’s Office has opened an investigation. In this regard, the IACHR calls on the State to conduct this investigation in accordance with due process until it has cleared up what happened and prosecuted and punished the perpetrators and, should they exist, the masterminds of this crime.
On another matter, the IACHR expresses deep concern over the attacks and acts of violence against demonstrators in the context of protests taking place in the country. Since the end of April, marches have been taking place in Venezuela to protest the deterioration of access to rights such as access to water, food, and health. In this context, on April 29, 2016, the executive secretary of the Mesa de Unidad Democrática (MUD), Jesús Torrealba, reported that he had been attacked with punches and struck with rocks when he was leading a march in Caracas to protest electricity cutoffs. The MUD published a video of the attack and indicated that members of the Bolivarian National Police who were present had not acted to put an end to it. According to media reports, the Secretary of Security and Public Order of the state government of Zulia warned, “As soon as we see that the protests are turning into something political, we will use force against the demonstration.”
The IACHR firmly calls on the State to adopt urgent measures to ensure that the right to association and freedom of expression can be exercised in Venezuela, free of violence and harassment. States have positive obligations to guarantee the right to freedom of expression and peaceful assembly. In this regard, actions taken by security forces in situations of protest must aim primarily to facilitate protest. It follows that police operations in the context of protests should, as a general rule, be geared toward ensuring the exercise of this right and the protection of demonstrators and third parties who are present.
In addition, the IACHR has received consistent information indicating that in recent weeks there have been a number of attacks on journalists who were covering demonstrations and activities of social and political leaders at the National Electoral Council. According to the information available, the assailants have been identified as government sympathizers and members of State security forces. On at least two of these occasions, the Bolivarian National Guard (GNB) and the police reportedly took away devices containing material that had been recorded or photographed by the media workers, according to reports by civil society organizations and digital media outlets. The IACHR calls to mind that the State has a duty to guarantee that journalists and members of the media who are doing their work in the context of public demonstrations and situations of public interest are not detained or attacked and that their material is not destroyed or confiscated.
The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights calls on the State of Venezuela to ensure an atmosphere of freedom and security for all people who live in the country, as part of their right to live in a democracy that respects the rule of law and where human rights are fully guaranteed.
A principal, autonomous body of the Organization of American States (OAS), the IACHR derives its mandate from the OAS Charter and the American Convention on Human Rights. The Inter-American Commission has a mandate to promote respect for human rights in the region and acts as a consultative body to the OAS in this area. The Commission is composed of seven independent members who are elected in an individual capacity by the OAS General Assembly and who do not represent their countries of origin or residence.