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UA 377/92 - Venezuela: possible extrajudicial executions / health concern: Ernesto Leal Hernandez, Atahualpa Perez, Johnny Vergara, Clara Ariza and more than 63 prisoners from the Reten de Catia Prison

, N° d'index: AMR 53/009/1992

AI is concerned about reports of killings in circumstances suggesting extrajudicial execution. Most occurred on 27 November 1992, the day that members of the armed forces tried to overthrow the government of Carlos Andres Perez, the second such attempt this year. Ernesto Leal Hernandez, a university student, was reportedly killed by members of the Metropolitan Police; Atahualpa Perez was found handcuffed and shot in the head; Clara Ariza was reportedly shot by a member of the National Guard as she left her house; Johnny Vergara, a television production assistant, was reportedly detained and shot in the centre of Caracas. Unconfirmed reports indicate that at least 63 prisoners were killed in a police operation to quell an escape attempt from El Reten de Catia Prison.

EXTERNAL (for general distribution) AI Index: AMR 53/09/92
Distr: UA/SC
UA 377/92 Possible extrajudicial executions/health concern 30 November 1992
VENEZUELA: Ernesto LEAL HERNÁNDEZ, 23, student and paramedic
Atahualpa PERÉZ, 19
Johnny VERGARA, production assistant for TV company
Clara ARIZA (female), 38
and more than 63 prisoners from the Retén de Catia prison
Amnesty International is gravely concerned at reports of the killing of a number of people
in circumstances suggesting they may have been the victims of extrajudicial execution.
Most of the reported killings were carried out on 27 November 1992, the day that members
of the armed forces tried to overthrow the civilian government of Carlos Andrés Pérez for
the second time this year.
Initial reports indicate that several civilians were killed by government forces. Ernesto
Leal Hernández, a student at the University of Simón Bolívar, was reportedly shot in the
back by members of the Metropolitan Police (PM, Policía Metropolitana). Atahualpa Pérez,
was reportedly found near the Central University of Venezuela (Universidad Central de
Venezuela) handcuffed and with a shot in the head. Clara Ariza was reportedly shot dead
by a member of the National Guard (GN, Guardia Nacional) as she left her house in the evening
to go shopping. Johnny Vergara, a television production assistant, was reportedly detained
and shot dead in the centre of Caracas.
In the Caracas prison of El Retén de Catia, unconfirmed reports indicate that at least
63 and possibly more than a 100 prisoners were killed when members of the Metropolitan
Police moved in to quell an attempt by inmates to escape from the prison on 27 November.
According to reports, at least 58 prisoners were wounded during the incident. Reports
also suggest that policemen were still firing at the prison a day later and on Sunday 29
November, the National Guard is alleged to have entered the prison firing indiscriminately.
Families waiting outside the prison for information about their relatives, among them
a young boy, reportedly suffered bullet injuries, when members of the Guardia Nacional
stationed outside the prison fired at them.
The number of deaths in Caracas alone is estimated to be at least 150. A number of civilians
are reported to have died in cross fire between rebel troops and loyal members of the armed
forces. Others were apparently killed during bombing raids by those participating in the
coup attempt, or were killed by snipers. At least 24 members of the armed forces, both
members of the rebellion and those loyal to the government, were reported to have been
killed. Some rebel soldiers were allegedly killed after they had given themselves up.
BACKGROUND INFORMATION
An earlier coup attempt on 4 February 1992 was quickly put down by troops loyal to President
Carlos Andrés Pérez. Amnesty International received reports that at least seven people,
four of them students, were the victims of extrajudicial execution in the town of Valencia.
At the beginning of 1989, hundreds of people died during nationwide disturbances. A number
of them were victims of extrajudicial execution. None of those responsible for these
killings, either committed this year, or in 1989, have been brought to justice.
Amnesty International has repeatedly complained about conditions in many Venezuelan prisons
that amount to cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment. Serious overcrowding, the arbitrary
use of punishment cells and poor sanitary conditions have prompted protests in a number
of prisons. The Retén de Catia is one of the most notorious prisons in Venezuela. It
is technically a temporary holding centre, but the majority of inmates have been there
longer than a year. Built for 700 inmates, it is said to hold over 4,000 prisoners in
conditions that are reported to be appalling.
Page 2 of UA 377/92
RECOMMENDED ACTIONS: Please send telegrams/telexes/faxes/express and airmail letters either
in Spanish, English, French or in your own language:
- expressing grave concern about reports of extrajudicial executions, including those named
above, in the wake of the attempted coup;
- requesting an immediate and impartial inquiry into the events in the Retén de Catia that
led to the alleged killing of more than 63 inmates and the wounding of 58 prisoners.
Requesting that such an inquiry should look into the allegations that the prison conditions
there constitute cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment;
- calling for immediate, full and impartial investigations into all these killings, following
the guidelines of the United Nations' Principles on the Effective Prevention and
Investigation of Extra-legal, Arbitrary and Summary Executions; and calling for adequate
medical care for all the wounded;
- urging that all necessary steps are taken to ensure that the security forces abide by
the United Nations' Code of Conduct for Law Enforcement Personnel.
APPEALS TO:
1) President:
Sr. Carlos Andrés Pérez Salutation: Sr. Presidente /
Presidente de la República Dear President
Palacio Miraflores, Caracas, Venezuela
Telegrams: Presidente Pérez, Caracas, Venezuela
Telexes: 26429 EXTER VC
2) Minister of the Interior:
Sr. Luis Piñerúa Ordaz Salutation: Sr. Ministro /
Ministro de Relaciones Interiores Dear Minister
Ministerio de Relaciones Interiores
Carmelitas a Santa Capilla, Caracas, Venezuela
Telegrams: Ministro Interior, Caracas, Venezuela
Telexes: 26429 EXTER VC
Faxes: + 58 2 81 57 96
3) Minister of Defence:
General Iván Jiménez Sánchez Salutation: Sr. Ministro /
Ministro de Defensa Nacional Dear Minister
Fuerte Tiuna, Conejo Blanco
El Valle, Caracas, Venezuela
Telegrams: Ministro Defensa, Caracas, Venezuela
Faxes: + 58 2 66 28 829
4) Attorney General:
Sr. Ramón Escovar Salom Salutation: Dr. Escovar Salom /
Fiscal General de la República Dear Dr. Escovar Salom
Manduca a Ferrequín,
La Candelaria, Caracas, Venezuela
Telegrams: Fiscal General, Caracas, Venezuela
Telexes: 24787 FISGE VC
5) Governor of Caracas:
Sr. Antonio Ledezma Salutation: Sr. Gobernador /
Gobernador del Distrito Federal Dear Governor
Esq. Principal, Frente a Plaza Bolívar
Caracas, Venezuela
Telegrams: Gobernador Distrito Federal, Caracas, Venezuela
Faxes: +58 2 81 46 68
COPIES TO:
Human Rights organization:
Provea
Apartado 5156
Caracas 1010-A
Venezuela
Daily Newspaper:
El Nacional
Edificio el Nacional
Puente Nuevo a Puerto Escondido
Caracas, Venezuela
and to diplomatic representatives of Venezuela accredited to your country.
PLEASE SEND APPEALS IMMEDIATELY. Please check with the International Secretariat, or your
section office, if sending appeals after 11 January 1993.

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