Request for the withdrawal of the accreditation of theVenezuelan People’s Defender – submission of reports

Geneva, March 19, 2014

To the attention of : Sub Committee on Accreditation (SCA)

Purpose: Extraordinary request for the revision and withdrawal of Venezuela and Submission of Reports

Distinguished Members of the Sub Committee on Accreditation,

On May 2013, pursuant to article 15 of the Statute, the SCA considered applications for re-accreditation from the NHRI of Venezuela, and the SCA subsequently recommended that the Defensoria del Pueblo de Venezuela (DPV) be re-accredited A status.

In the May 2013 report, the SCA mentioned it sought additional information on whether the DPV had made statements or recommendations on recent human rights concerns in three particular instances, namely: the continued detention of Judge Maria Lourdes Afiuni; the withdrawal of Venezuela from the American Convention on Human Rights; and the Uribana prison incident.

The SCA was then of the view that the DPV’s response at interview did not show that it had taken a strong public position on these issues. It did not, for example, call for the end to the continued detention of Judge Maria Lourdes Afiuni. In additional it did not speak publicly about the importance of respect for judicial independence notwithstanding the recent report of the Working Group on Arbitrary Detention which considers such detention as a “reprisal” (A/HRC/22/44 (24 December 2012) paragraph 22). Furthermore, the SCA noted that it was unaware of any strong recommendations made by the DPV arising from the Uribana prison incident.

The SCA considered then the DPV’s silence on the country’s withdrawal from the American Convention on Human Rights incompatible with the obligation of an NHRI to advocate for the ratification of Human Rights treaties.

The SCA strongly urged the DPV to be more pro-active in the exercise and fulfillment of its mandate, and that it take a clear public stand on critical domestic human rights issues. The SCA highlighted the importance of NHRI’s responding within a reasonable time to alleged gross human rights violations, noting that the delay in doing so impacts adversely on the perceived independence and credibility of, and public confidence in, a NHRI.

The SCA received a submission from NGOs that was then sent to the DPV for comment. However, as the original submission was not received within the time proscribed by the SCA, it was not possible to translate and consider the submission or the DPV’s response.

The SCA also encouraged the DPV to develop policies and procedures to ensure that staff representation is broad and pluralistic. As of today, not a single staff is from other political party than the PSUV (Chavez political party, and Ombudsman’s one). The Ombudsman and the General Attorney proudly reiterate to be part of the Government’s majority. You will see in one of the reports submitted (UCAB’s report) that between other things the Ombudsman proudly exhibit a profile picture with defunct President Chavez.

Geneva, March 19, 2014

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We would like to mention that because of Venezuela’s withdrawal of the American Convention, all the citizens are now, since September 2013, in a legal vacuum regarding the claiming and defense of their rights before an international tribunal. The SCA may already know that on September 6, 2012, Venezuela formally notified the Secretary General of the Organization of American States (OAS) of its intent to withdraw. Venezuelan officials have accused the Court of acting as a puppet to United States interests, and of meddling with Venezuela’s national sovereignty. Recent decisions by both the IACtHR and the Inter- American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) drew derision from Venezuela.

In July, Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez reiterated statements made a few months earlier that the country would withdraw after the Court issued a decision in Díaz Peña v. Venezuela that required Venezuela provide compensation for the inhumane detention of Raúl José Díaz Peña. That same month, the Commission sent another case to the Court, Hermanos Landaeta Mejías v. Venezuela, and cited Venezuela’s failure to comply with its recommendation that the alleged arbitrary detention and extrajudicial killings of the Mejías brothers be fully investigated. Through its reports, the Commission has expressed concern about political intolerance, restriction of free speech, impunity for human rights violations, and highlighted the Venezuelan government’s reluctance to allow the Commission to conduct observation visits for the past ten years. Most recently, the IACHR urged Venezuela to investigate reports of a massacre of the Yanomami indigenous people last year by illegal Brazilian miners inside Venezuelan borders. Just one day later Venezuela formally notified the OAS of its intent to withdraw from the Convention. (Human Rights Brief)

The Ombusdman never condemned the withdrawal, and never answered the doubts raised after President Chavez’s decision. As for now, the only judicial instance able to judge the huge human rights violations committed in Venezuela is the Venezuelan judicial system, which is well known for its partiality and non independence (United Nations).

Through this petition, we would like to raise concerns over:

  • –  The lack of financial independence. Indeed, the DPV is required to seek the approval of the government for expenses, and depends only on the Government, violating as such article 4 of the Ombudsman’s Organic Law, and the Paris Principles. Such a situation has implications for the financial independence of the institution.
  • –  The lack of impartiality. Indeed, the Ombudsman is more likely to pay attention to the complaints of service failures rather than abuses related to citizens, violating as such articles 3, 7 and 14 of the Ombudsman’s Organic Law, and the Paris Principles.
  • –  The lack of independence. Indeed, the Ombudsman, Gabriela Ramirez, has been know as the “Defensores del Puesto” (“Defenders of the position”) spending her time more defending the untenable positions of the Government regarding human rights violations, than those of the people. Over the last few week, little has been heard from Ramirez, while repression blossomed in Venezuela. Moreover, during a parallel event organized by the Venezuelan Mission at the Palais des Nations on 16 May 2014 in Room XXIII, the General Attorney explicitly raised concerned over the deaths of three National Guards instead of the deaths of at least twenty-five young students and some adults due to the failure of National Guards to abide by the mandate of protecting their citizens since the protests escalated on 12 February 2014.The SCA might be aware of the situation in Venezuela since 2 February 2014, when protests began. Indeed, 30 dead, hundreds injured, some 2000 arrested (105 condemned to jail so far

for protesting) and denunciations of torture, illegal repression by security forces and irregular groups and attacks on the press are the fruits of over a month of political confrontation in the streets of some 30 Venezuelan cities.

The Government of Venezuela is violating the United Nations’ basic principles on the use of force and firearms [approved in Havana in 1990], with regulatory bodies like the Public Prosecutor’s Office and the Ombudsman’s Office treating them with contempt.

According to eye-witnesses, press investigations and videos circulating on social networks and other websites (including online press), several protesters were shot to death by plain-clothes police, by armed groups (accused and witnessed to be working for the Government) that intimidated protesters and initiated and carried out violent incidents, or by pellets allegedly fired by members of the militarized Bolivarian National Guard. In several cities there were reports that young detainees were soaked with gasoline and threatened with being set on fire, were tortured with electric prods, or raped with weapons. There were also reports of security agents shooting at, raiding and throwing tear gas canisters into private residences, as well as destroying private property.

The Public Prosecutor’s Office and the Ombudsman’s Office, which should act ex officio, have turned though a deaf ear, improperly issuing opinions ahead of time in favour of the Government and blaming opposition leaders, and also remaining silent when evidence was contaminated by executive branch officials.

Despite more than a month of protests, Ramirez has been fairly invisible. In fact, a few days ago, she claimed not to have any accusations of torture, despite individuals making them (56 so far have been submitted to the OHCHR), as well as those of Foro Penal Venezolano, which have been very clear and extremely specific and quantitative (Alfredo Romero tweets and updates regularly under @alfredoromero in Twitter). In fact, Ramirez claims that “bullets” have come from “somewhere else” while there are numerous videos which show cops, police and National Guard shooting real bullets at people, exactly what Ramirez says is prohibited.

Finally, on 8 March 2014, she said in a public statement that “la tortura tiene un sentido, por eso nosotros tenemos que ser muy rigurosos con el uso de los términos. La tortura se emplea para obtener información…” (Torture makes sense, that is why we have to be rigorous in the use of terms. Torture is used to obtain information…), which caused a lot of controversy and suggested that she was not impartial in the alleged cases of torture to students by the National Guards.

This is why, according to the recommendation provided by the Secretariat, we kindly submit through this petition an extraordinary request to revise and withdraw the accreditation given to Venezuela, due to the urgency of the situation, the human rights emergency in the country, and the clear violation of the Paris Principles by the Ombudsman.

You will find in this regard six complete reports submitted by the signatories of this petition, providing details on the aforementioned violations of the Paris Principles by the DPV:

  1. A Report and its annexes elaborated by the Human Rights Commission of the Venezuelan Political Party MUD, under the direction of Delsa Solorzano, Coordinator of said Human Rights Commission, and Deputy to the Latin American parliament
  2. A report elaborated by the Inter-American Bar Association, which highlights clearly the lack of independence of the Ombusdman, under the direction of Rafael Veloz, President of the Venezuelan Chapter , Inter-American Bar Association (IABA), former President of the IABA
  1. A petition introduced by Lawyers Thelma Rodriguez and Jose Amalio Graterol (Judge Afiuni’s Lawyers), against a Mayor prohibiting the right to peaceful protest and assembly, as well as the right to movement within the municipality of Libertador, highlighting the complete lack of support from the Ombudsman.
  2. A report on human rights violations against the Indigenous group “Wayuu” and “Yukpa”, never attended by the Ombusdman, elaborated by Katherine Portman, indigenous specialist, member of the NGO Benposta,
  3. A report on general human rights violations committed by the Government, never denounced by the Ombusdman, elaborated by Gianna Alessandra Sanchez Moretti, ex-official of the UNESCO and Consultant for UNITAR.

A report on political persecution over 2013, highlighting the complete absence of involment of the Ombusdman to defend the persecuted people, elaborated by the NGO Venezuela A wareness

We also enclose for your information a public Report elaborated by the Universidad Catolica Andrés Bello, which highlights clearly all the violations mentioned supra.

Thank you for your time and attention. Sincerely yours,

Delphine Patetif

Screenshot 2014-03-23 07.52.40Permanent Representative of FIACAT to the United Nations Volunteer Contributor to the Venezuelan NGO Foro Penal Venezolano

Signatories:

  • –  Delsa Solorzano, Deputy to the Latin American parliament; Coordinator of the Human Rights Commission, MUD
  • –  Rafael Veloz, President of the Venezuelan Chapter , Inter-American Bar Association (IABA), former President of the IABA
  • –  Thelma Rodriguez and José Amalio Graterol (Judge Afiuni’s Lawyers)
  • –  Katherine Portman, indigenous specialist, member of the NGO Benposta, working for indigenous children in Venezuela, member of the Swiss association Benposta’s friends. CEO of Wayoo International. Journalist. Master in Communication Sciences and Economics.
  • –  Gianna Alessandra Sanchez Moretti, PhD candidate in Law, University of Brasilia. Master in International Studies and Human Rights. Ex-official of the UNESCO. Consultant for UNITAR.
  • –  Patricia Andrade, Director of the NGO Venezuela Awareness

Mama Tierra

March 23rd, 2014 View Profile

Supporting indigenous people, saving mother earth!

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