“We are deeply concerned about the rapidly deteriorating economic, social and political situation in Venezuela and call upon the authorities to take urgent and immediate measures to address this complex crisis, with full respect for their international human rights obligations,” the experts said.
“Freedom of expression and assembly is essential so that the legitimate concerns of citizens can be heard and their needs, including their human rights, addressed.
“We have received consistent reports of a systematic and pervasive disregard for human rights displayed by the Venezuelan authorities during their crackdown on protesters, journalists and human rights defenders. We call upon the Government to respect and protect the right to freedom of peaceful assembly and to address the underlying causes for the demonstrations.”
The demonstrators have been protesting over lack of access to basic services, such as healthcare, medication, food and water, and calling for democratic change.
The ongoing crackdown on them has reportedly resulted in a dramatic rise in arbitrary detentions, killings, raids and torture.
Between 21 and 29 January, reports say more than 1,000 people including minors were arbitrarily detained in connection with the protests. Most of those arrested were reportedly kept incommunicado for days, without access to family or legal representation.
“We are particularly concerned about reports indicating that 26 people were killed by security forces and pro-government paramilitary groups while taking part in demonstrations between 22 and 25 January,” the experts said.
The security forces have allegedly used live ammunition, rubber bullets and buckshot on crowds. The country’s hospitals reportedly lack sufficient medical resources to treat the injured.
Journalists and media outlets are also said to have been specifically targeted. Reports say internet services have frequently been partially or totally disrupted. On 23 January alone, 17 journalists reported attacks, detentions and confiscation of equipment. That same day, access to social media sites was disrupted and three media outlets were reportedly raided by civil and military authorities, resulting in destruction and confiscation of equipment preventing broadcasters from transmitting.
On 29 and 30 January, 11 journalists were allegedly arbitrarily detained. Four of them were later deported and, between the beginning of February and the first week of March, at least 20 more were said to have been arbitrarily arrested.
Indigenous communities are also reported to have suffered at the hands of authorities, with a number of injuries and deaths allegedly resulting from the use of live ammunition by the Bolivarian National Guard in Kumarakapay and Santa Elena de Uairén.
“We call upon the Venezuelan authorities to conduct an immediate, impartial and effective investigation into all deaths which have occurred during the ongoing protests, and to release all of those who have been detained for legitimately exercising their human rights to freedom of expression and peaceful assembly,” the experts said.
“We urge the Government to take immediate measures to remedy the situation, including by allowing critical and dissenting voices to be heard in Venezuela, without fear of retaliation, threats, violence or other harassment.”
(*)The UN experts: Mr. David Kaye, Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of the right to freedom of opinion and expression; Ms. Agnes Callamard, Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions; Mr. Clément Nyaletsossi Voule, Special Rapporteur on the rights to peaceful assembly and of association;Mr. Michel Forst, Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights defenders; Mr. Nils Melzer, Special Rapporteur on torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment; Mr. Seong-Phil Hong, Chair-Rapporteur, Working Group on Arbitrary Detention; Mr. Dainius Pῡras, Special Rapporteur on the right to health; Ms. Victoria Tauli Corpuz, Special Rapporteur on the rights of indigenous peoples; Mr.Joseph Cannataci, Special Rapporteur on the right to privacy.