The Inter-Parliamentary Union on Monday demanded that Nicolás Maduro’s regime release the Venezuelan deputies who have been arrested for political reasons, without the right to due process or judicial guarantees.
In view of the global pandemic of the coronavirus COVID-19, the multilateral organization expressed its concern for the detainees in Venezuela, since they are more vulnerable to the spread of the virus than the general population.
“In light of the exceptional circumstances imposed by the pandemic, I call on the Venezuelan authorities to release the detained parliamentarians as soon as possible unless due process has been properly followed and they have actually been convicted of a crime. The authorities should also bear in mind that, under international human rights law, detention before or without trial must be extremely limited and the exception,” said Mr Nassirou Bako-Arifari, Chairman of the IPU Parliamentarians’ Human Rights Committee.
THE FULL STATEMENT FOLLOWS
The IPU remains concerned about the fate of opposition parliamentarians detained in Venezuela, particularly in the case of the COVID-19 pandemic. According to the World Health Organization, persons in prison and other confined places of detention are more vulnerable to the outbreak of coronavirus disease than the general population.
The IPU renews its calls on the Venezuelan authorities to release parliamentarians who have been arrested without due process and respect for basic human rights. The IPU has received new information about the detention of members of the National Assembly who oppose Mr. Maduro’s government.
According to this information, two more parliamentarians have been arrested: Mr Renzo Prieto on March 10th and Mr Antonio Geara on March 15th. The arrests do not appear to have complied with the constitutional provisions on parliamentary immunity. The Members of Parliament also did not have access to their lawyers and were not properly informed of the reasons for their arrest. Mr. Geara is reported to be in poor health and to require specialized medical treatment. Other opposition parliamentarians detained include Mr. Juan Requesens since August 2018 and Mr. Gilbert Caro since December 2019.
Mr Nassirou Bako-Arifari, Chairman of the IPU Parliamentarians’ Human Rights Committee, said: “In light of the exceptional circumstances imposed by the pandemic, I call on the Venezuelan authorities to release the detained parliamentarians as soon as possible unless due process has been properly followed and they have actually been found guilty of a crime. The authorities should also bear in mind that, under international human rights law, detention before trial or without trial must be extremely limited and the exception.”
The IPU also received further reports of other human rights violations against opposition parliamentarians in Venezuela. At least 13 members of the National Assembly were allegedly threatened by intimidating graffiti attacks in their homes on March 28th and 29th. On 30 March, Ms. Delsa Solórzano, Vice-President of the IPU Parliamentarians’ Human Rights Committee and Mr. Maduro’s vocal opponent, also received death threats and intimidating messages through instant messages. Ms. Solórzano has long been subject to harassment.
The IPU strongly condemns all acts that prevent parliamentarians from carrying out their duties. At this time of crisis, it is of the utmost importance that Parliament be allowed to contribute effectively to efforts to prevent the spread of the coronavirus. The IPU urges the Venezuelan authorities to immediately cease all forms of harassment against members of the National Assembly, including the arbitrary and systematic detention of parliamentarians. It is the State’s obligation to protect all persons from any harm or violation of their human rights, whether by State or non-State actors.