Venezuela: Ruling to uphold López’s sentence, new stain on crumbling human rights record

A decision by a court of appeals in Venezuela to uphold a 13-year jail sentence against opposition leader and prisoner of conscience Leopoldo López is yet another stain on the country’s crumbling human rights record, Amnesty International said.

“Leopoldo López is the victim of a vicious ‘witch hunt’ against anyone who dares to disagree with the Venezuelan government. He is a prisoner of conscience and must be released immediately and unconditionally,” said Carolina Jimenez, Americas Deputy Director for Research at Amnesty International.

Leopoldo López is the victim of a vicious ‘witch hunt’ against anyone who dares to disagree with the Venezuelan government. He is a prisoner of conscience and must be released immediately and unconditionally,
Carolina Jiménez, Americas Deputy Director for Research at Amnesty International.

Leopoldo López, leader of the opposition party Voluntad Popular, handed himself in to the National Guard (Guardia Nacional) on 18 February 2014 after a mass anti-government demonstration he organized. On 10 September 2015, he was found guilty of inciting violence during an anti-government protest on 12 February 2014 and sentenced to 13 years and nine months in prison for the charges of conspiracy, incitement to commit a crime, arson, and damage to public property. Amnesty International remains concerned that the detention and trial of Leopoldo López appears to be politically motivated.

In August 2014, the UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention said that López’s detention was arbitrary and the High Commissioner for Human Rights urged the authorities to release him immediately.

Forty-three people died, including members of the security forces, and hundreds were injured during the protests that swept Venezuela in the first half of 2014. Scores were ill-treated and thousands detained. Victims and their relatives are still awaiting justice.