EXTERNAL AI Index: AMR 53/06/96
UA 191/96 Arbitrary arrest/fear for safety 30 July 1996
VENEZUELA Jorge Nieves, human rights defender
Leticia Echenique (f), human rights defender
Amnesty International is alarmed at the arbitrary arrest of Jorge Nieves and
Leticia Echenique, members of the Comité para la Defensa de los Derechos Humanos
(CODEHUM), a non-governmental human rights organization based in Guasdualito,
state of Apure, and is seriously concerned abut their safety and that of other
members of their organization. Guasdualito is within the so-called "zonas de
seguridad fronteriza", border security zones, where several constitutional
guarantees remain suspended and security operations are under the command of
the Venezuelan army.
Jorge Nieves and Leticia Echenique were detained on 29 July at the local office
of the Dirección de Inteligencia y Prevención (DISIP), a police intelligence
agency, when they went to enquire about the conditions of detention of Silvano
Rivero, who had been held in that office since 28 July. Following their
detention, the home of Jorge Nieves was raided without a warrant by the police.
According to the local police, both human rights defenders were detained
because their names had appeared on a list of people allegedly conspiring to
undermine the security of the state. Reportedly, no charges have been brought
against either of them. Amnesty International has well-founded fears for their
safety. Earlier this month, representatives of CODEHUM presented a report
of human rights violations by the security forces to a visiting Amnesty
International delegation. Amnesty International believes that the detention
of Jorge Nieves and Leticia Echenique may be in retaliation for this.
Amnesty International (AI) has expressed increasing concern about gross human
rights violations by the Venezuelan security forces in vast areas bordering
with Colombia. Between 13 and 21 July, an Amnesty International delegation,
headed by its Secretary General, visited the country to present a memorandum
addressed to President Rafael Caldera which summarized the organization's
concerns over the deteriorating human rights situation in the country,
especially in the areas bordering with Colombia, defined as "zonas de seguridad
fronteriza". During the visit, AI representatives met with several Venezuelan
human rights organizations, which support AI's concerns. The human rights
defenders participating in that meeting described the increasing pressure they
feel and even threats they are suffering from local authorities as a result
of their work. Among those present were representatives of CODEHUM, which
updated the organization on the sharp increase in serious human rights
violations by the security forces, including dozens of recent cases of torture,
in Guasdualito and other areas of Apure. They also reported recent incidents
of threats against their members by local authorities.
Amnesty International's memorandum was not well received by some authorities.
José Guillermo Andueza, the Interior Minister, accused AI's Secretary General
of "defending Colombian interests", and General Raúl Salazar Rodríguez, in
charge of military operations in the region, completely refuted AI's concerns.
Amnesty International is extremely concerned that these statements may
indicate a lack of willingness by the authorities to stop human rights violations
and ensure full investigations about well-documented abuses committed by the