PUBLIC AI Index: AMR 53/03/09
UA 99/98 Fear for safety / Fear for Torture 27 March 1998
VENEZUELASicso Torbello Cordero
Zulay Villegas Díaz (wife of Sicso Torbello Cordero)
There are serious concerns for the safety of Sicso Torbello Cordero and his wife,
Zulay Villegas Díaz, after he was reportedly beaten by police and both were issued
with death threats.
Sicso Torbello Cordero, a member of the Casa de Amistad con Cuba, Cuban Friendship
House, was detained on 20 March 1998 by members of the Policía Técnica Judicial
(PTJ), Judicial Technical Police, in the city of Barquisimeto, Lara State,
allegedly in connection with a robbery. He was taken to a police station in Las
Calderas, the industrial part of Barquisimeto, and held incommunicado until 23
March, when his wife and his lawyer were finally allowed to see him. He told
them that during interrogation about his political activities, he had been beaten
and threatened with death by members of the PTJ.
On 25 March 1998, his family received anonymous, threatening phone calls and
were told that if they reported the matter to human rights organisations or lawyers
this would make things worse for Sicso Torbello Cordero, and that Zulay Villegas
Díaz would be killed.
Sicso Torbello Cordero remains in detention in the police station of the PTJ
and has not been charged. Amnesty International is concerned that he may be at
risk of suffering further ill-treatment.
Amnesty International is seriously concerned at the level of human rights
violations carried out by police forces in Venezuela. The organisation has
documented scores of cases where victims have been targeted because of their
political or human rights activism (see UA 267/97, AMR 53/10/97, 11 August 1997;
and follow-up AMR 53/02/98, 10 March 1998).
Amnesty International has repeatedly complained to the Venezuelan authorities
about the widespread use of torture and ill-treatment, and about the lack of
safeguards provided to people held in preventive detention. Police are allowed
by law to detain people in custody for up to eight days before they are brought
before a judge. This far exceeds what could be considered safe in terms of
preventing conditions which facilitate the use of torture. Under the current
system, detainees are left almost completely at the mercy of those holding them.
Amnesty International believes the principal reason for the persistence of
torture in Venezuela is the impunity enjoyed by the perpetrators.
RECOMMENDED ACTION: Please send telegrams/faxes/express/airmail letters in
Spanish or your own language:
- urging that immediate measures be taken to guarantee the safety of Sicso Torbello
Cordero and Zulay Villegas Díaz;
- requesting that a thorough investigation be conducted into the reported beating
of Sicso Torbello Cordero by alleged PTJ agents, and also the death threats made
to Zulay Villega Díaz, and calling for those responsible to be brought to justice;
- expressing concern at the level of human rights violations carried out by members
of the police on political and human rights activists in Venezuela.