May 12, 2004

Venezuela: Human rights under threat


All parties involved in the political conflict in Venezuela must show real commitment to respecting the rule of law if they are to break the violence cycle. In a new report launched today, Amnesty International highlights cases of excessive use of force, torture and ill-treatment committed by security forces in the context of demonstrations that took place between February and March 2004 and raises serious questions about the commitment of key institutions to prevent and punish such abuses impartially.

At least 14 people died in these demonstrations in circumstances that have yet to be clarified. As many as 200 were wounded. Several of those detained were severely ill-treated or tortured by members of the security forces.

"Many demonstrations were violent with the use of barricades, stones, Molotov cocktails and in some cases, firearms," said Amnesty International. "However, the response of the security forces frequently involved excessive use of force, contributing to spiralling violence rather than preventing or controlling it."

Subsequent investigations to establish the facts around these alleged abuses have been slow and inadequate. "There are serious questions about the commitment of key institutions to investigate and prevent human rights abuses impartially. Failure to ensure that these institutions carry out their duties effectively and impartially will weaken the fragile rule of law and fuel Venezuela's political crisis," added the human rights organization.