Venezuela: Political spiral of violence a threat to the rule of law

Venezuela risks one of the worst threats to the rule of law in decades if the different political forces do not commit to fully respecting human rights, according to a new Amnesty International report on the current crisis in the country. 

The report, Venezuela: Human Rights at risk amid protests, documents allegations of human rights violations and abuses committed in the context of the massive public demonstrations since early February. 

“The country runs the risk of descending into a spiral of violence unless steps are taken to bring the conflicting parties around the table. This can only happen if both sides fully respect human rights and the rule of law. Unless this happens, the death toll will continue to rise with ordinary people bearing the brunt,” said Erika Guevara Rosas, Americas Director at Amnesty International. 

So far 37 people have lost their lives and more than 550 have been injured including at least 120 through the use of firearms. According to figures released by the Office of the Attorney General on 27 March 2,157 have been detained during the protests. The vast majority has been released but continue to face charges. 

According to allegations received by Amnesty International, the country’s security forces have resorted to the excessive use of force, including the use of live fire, and even torture when dealing with protesters. 

The report also documents human rights abuses committed by pro-government groups, protesters and unidentified individuals. 

“All allegations of human rights violations and abuses have to be promptly and thoroughly investigated and the perpetrators brought to justice,” said Erika Guevara Rosas. 

“The political crisis risks undermining any progress made in recent years in standing up for the rights of those most marginalized in the country.” 

Amnesty International is calling on the Venezuelan government to commit to a Human Rights National Plan. This plan should be the result of a national dialogue and include all parties and civil society. 

“The government and the opposition must commit to peaceful means of resolving the political crisis, instructing supporters that violence and confrontational rhetoric that could incite violence will not be tolerated. The international community, including neighbouring countries, must foster constructive dialogue in the country,” said Erika Guevara Rosas. 

Background information: Examples of alleged human rights violations 

On 19 February, Geraldine Moreno, a 23-year-old student, took part in a demonstration in the city of Valencia. A National Guard officer allegedly fired a rubber pellet shotgun cartridge into her face from a distance of only 30 cm. Geraldine died in hospital three days later. 

Daniel Quintero, a 21-year-old student, was detained by officers of the National Guard after taking part in an anti-government demonstration in the city of Maracaibo on 21 February. He was repeatedly beaten and alleges that a National Guard commander threatened him with being burned alive.