The Presidential Commissioner for Human Rights and Attention to Victims, Humberto Prado, demanded this Tuesday that the Nicolás Maduro dictatorship release journalist Darvinson Rojas.
Rojas was arrested by the Special Action Forces (FAES) of the National Police (PNB), in an attempt to silence his reports on the spread of COVID-19 in Venezuela.
Prado applauded Amnesty International’s worldwide urgent action in favor of the journalist, requesting that he be released by Nicolas Maduro.
They also denounce that in Venezuela, human rights defenders and people seeking justice for violations committed by the regime have been subjected to selective attacks and smear campaigns.
They also refer to the Special Action Forces (FAES), claiming that this police force has a poor human rights record, particularly in relation to extrajudicial executions.
The following is the full text of the global urgent action issued by Amnesty International in favor of the journalist.
Dear Nicolas Maduro:
I am very concerned about the arbitrary arrest and detention of Darvinson Rojas. Darvinson Rojas was arrested on March 21st after reporting the spread of COVID-19 in Venezuela.
He has since been held by the FAES, although the charges against him have not been disclosed. In times of global public health crisis, people’s right to press freedom is more vital than ever. Journalists, particularly those who report on the crisis, must be protected, not arrested. I demand the immediate and unconditional release of Darvinson, and that all Venezuelan authorities guarantee the protection of the right to freedom of the press and the safety of press workers.
— ComisionadoDDHH (@ComisionadoDDHH) March 24, 2020
The arbitrary detention, criminalization and unjust sentencing of Darvinson Rojas takes place in a context of widespread arbitrary arrests of people who criticize the government or claim their human rights. Venezuelan authorities have implemented a policy of systematic and widespread repression, including politically motivated arbitrary detentions, selective extrajudicial executions, and using military tribunals to charge non-military personnel with discretionary crimes, such as treason or rebellion, against those deemed critical of the government.
Human rights defenders and those seeking justice for human rights violations have been subjected to selective attacks and smear campaigns, in an apparent attempt to stifle their human rights work.
The FAES has a particularly poor human rights record, particularly in relation to extrajudicial executions. In January 2019, the targets were all young men who were or were perceived to be critical of the government and came from low-income areas and their involvement in the protests had been visible or publicized. In addition, the authorities continue to refuse to acknowledge the true scale of the humanitarian emergency and the deterioration of living conditions.
The population in Venezuela faces serious shortages of food, medicine, medical supplies, water and electricity. By the end of 2019, the total number of people who had fled the country in search of international protection had reached 4.8 million.
In the case of Darvinson Rojas, his reports on the spread of COVID-19 in Venezuela put him at risk of becoming a victim of the government’s repressive policy, given the tight control that Nicolas Maduro’s authorities have over information on public health and government affairs. Darvinson was at home in Mamera, Caracas, with his parents when a group of FAES officials arrived at his house and asked to speak to him, initially with the excuse of an alleged “COVID-19 case,” and then asked him to reveal his sources about the information he was making public regarding cases of people infected with the virus in Venezuela. The FAES arrested his parents with him and took them to the same detention center, where they could hear that FAES officials were pressuring Darvinson to disclose information about who his source was in the matter, which also contravenes the principle of confidentiality of source protected by international law.
After his parents were released, he was taken to another detention centre and, after hours of uncertainty, his family was able to see him and talk to him on March 22nd.
At the time this urgent action was issued, Darvinson had not been brought before a court to establish the charges and grounds for his arrest, and his lawyer believes this will not happen within the legal deadline of 48 hours after his arrest.