Archive for January 30th, 2010

Amnesty International on the right of Venezuelans to meet and express themselves

January 30, 2010

Here is a translation of the press release by Amnesty International asking the Venezuelan Government to respect the rights of all Venezuelans to meet and express themselves as well as calling for the investigation of who was responsible for the dead and injured during the protests:

Following recent acts of violence occurring during the student protests in different cities for and against the waiver of RCTV International, Amnesty International called on the authorities to guarantee the right of assembly and expression for all people , and to ensure that the death of students Yosinio Carrillo Torres, 16, and Marcos Rosales, and the injuries suffered by dozens of other people, including demonstrators and members of law enforcement, are investigated and those responsible brought to justice.

The authorities must unequivocally condemn these serious abuses immediately and ensure that the police intervene only to protect the integrity and life of all persons seeking to exercise their legitimate right to meeting.

The state has a duty to maintain order always making sure that security forces use force, including the use of firearms, only when it is strictly necessary and in accordance with a principle of proportionality, without infringing in any torture or punishment cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment, such as specified by international standards of human rights and the Constitution of the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela.

“The right to assembly is a fundamental right, but not a right to violent protest. Demonstrators and their leaders must ensure that no use of violence, “specified Amnesty International.

What happened during the the last few days is not an isolated event. In the past 13 months when protests have increased markedly in Venezuela about 600 protesters were injured, at least 14 with gunshot wounds, and 9 protesters are dead. According to reports, most were killed by security forces, armed groups of civilians who are government supporters who claim their actions or by unidentified civilians.

Amnesty International is extremely concerned by the deterioration of freedom of expression in the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela. All rights, including the right to freedom of expression and assembly must be respected and society must realize that they were respected.

The non-renewal or suspension of licenses of television and radio, as happened in 2007 with RCTV and last year when it revoked the license to 34 radio stations, together with the recent suspension of four cable television channels, including RCTV Internacional, shows disrespect by the authorities to the legitimate work of the media, especially when these are known for their editorial criticism of the government.

“While the media must abide by the provisions of the law, closing a media outlet should be a last resort and a measure that should only be implemented after being given all the guarantees of due process, including the right to present a defense and appeal, “said Amnesty International.

If the Venezuelan government is committed to the values of the rule of law it must promote, protect and respect the right to freedom of expression and assembly and celebrate the importance and positive contribution in a state of law and transparency play criticism, Amnesty says International.