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Amnesty Reports Receiving Dozens of Venezuela Torture Accounts

Amnesty Reports Receiving Dozens of Venezuela Torture Accounts
Protesters clash with police in Caracas on March 30.

Tuesday, 01 April 2014 11:58 AM

Amnesty International has received dozens of accounts of torture allegedly carried out by government security forces in Venezuela since protests that have left at least 37 dead broke out in February.

“We’ve received reports from detainees who were forced to spend hours on their knees or feet in detention centers,” Amnesty wrote in a report, adding that other Venezuelans said they suffered sexual abuse and threats of murder. “Inhuman and degrading treatment inflicted on detainees appears to be intended to punish them for their involvement, or suspected involvement, in the protests,” Amnesty said.

The unrest started Feb. 4 when students demonstrated against a lack of security at their universities, sparking nationwide marches organized by political opposition leaders eight days later over issues including rising crime, shortages of basic goods and accelerating inflation. The unrest has persisted almost nightly as protesters clash with the National Guard and armed groups that support President Nicolas Maduro.

The government and members of the opposition must make a commitment to human rights and the rule of law, according to the report, “Venezuela: Human Rights at Risk Amid Protests.” Amnesty based its findings on interviews with government officials, human rights organizations and lawyers, alleged victims of abuse and witnesses of violence during protests.

Venezuela’s Information Ministry didn’t immediately respond to an e-mail seeking comment on the report, which was made available in Spanish to reporters yesterday under embargo.

The government is investigating two cases of torture and 75 of “cruel treatment,” the Public Prosecutor’s office said yesterday in an e-mailed report, adding that 17 members of state security forces had been arrested.

“Human rights are respected in Venezuela,” Public Prosecutor Luisa Ortega Diaz said on state television March 28.

More than 550 people have been wounded during the unrest, including anti-government protesters, Maduro supporters and bystanders, according to the London-based human rights watchdog. Eight members of the National Guard are among the dead, Amnesty said.

Amnesty since Feb. 12 has received reports of the use of pellet guns and tear gas shot directly at protesters at short range and without warning. Such practices violate international standards and have resulted in the death of at least one protester, it said. Demonstrators detained by government forces at times have been denied medical care and access to lawyers, Amnesty said.

“Amnesty views with worry the use of chemical toxins in high concentrations,” the non-governmental organization said. It recommended that all government security forces receive training on the correct use of force in protests and that operational plans to control public order be changed to comply with United Nations norms.

Amnesty called on Venezuela’s government to conduct an “exhaustive, independent and impartial” investigation into all reports of human rights violations and guarantee that detained protesters have access to lawyers, family members and medical care.

Amnesty expressed concern about Maduro’s March 5 statement urging supporters to take to the streets and stop opposition protests as well as the use of barricades by protesters and pro- government forces to shut down city avenues.

Elected last April to succeed Hugo Chavez, who died a month earlier from cancer, Maduro is struggling to slow the world’s fastest inflation and stimulate gross domestic product that according to analysts polled by Bloomberg will contract in 2014. The economic woes put into question past gains that have benefited the poorest of society, according to Amnesty.

“The grave situation the country faces today could have been avoided if the government had prioritized the promotion and protection of human rights, strengthened institutions that support the rule of law and fought high indexes of criminality,” it wrote.

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Amnesty International has received dozens of accounts of torture allegedly carried out by government security forces in Venezuela since protests that have left at least 37 dead broke out in February.
Tuesday, 01 April 2014 11:58 AM
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