March 3, 2015
Washington, D.C.—The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) laments the death of a student during the suppression of a demonstration in Táchira, Venezuela, by security forces of the State. The IACHR rejects all forms of violence and urges the State of Venezuela to ensure that any use of force is in strict accordance with its international obligations. It also calls on Venezuela to promote a process of dialogue to find a peaceful solution to the current tensions, in a context of strict respect for human rights.
According to the information available, 14-year-old Kluibert Roa received a gunshot wound to the head during clashes between students and State security forces which took place on February 24, in the area around the Catholic University of Táchira (UCAT). The information received indicates that Kluibert Roa, a high school student, was not participating in the protests.
The Public Prosecutor’s Office reported that a police officer has been arrested in the case, and announced that it will launch an investigation. The Inter-American Commission takes note of the announcement and urges the State to conduct this investigation diligently and impartially, punish those responsible, and provide reparation to the victims.
Given the importance of the rights of freedom of association and expression for the consolidation of democratic societies, any restriction must be justified by an imperative social interest. Therefore, the limitations that a State may impose on a demonstration or protest must be justified by the duty to protect people, and the means used must be the safest and least harmful for demonstrators and passersby. Actions by agents of the State must not discourage the exercise of these rights. Moreover, any limitations on demonstrations must be governed by the principles of legality, necessity, and proportionality. The use of force in public demonstrations must be the exception, not the rule, and must be under strictly necessary circumstances, in keeping with recognized international principles.
The Inter-American Commission urges the State to adopt mechanisms to avoid excessive use of force by public law enforcement in protest marches and demonstrations, an obligation that must be taken into account especially in the case of children and adolescents.
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.