No.  26/03





The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) repudiates the murder of Joe Castillo, a human rights defender of the Apostolic Vicariate of Machiques, who worked and lived in Machiques, Zulia State, Venezuela. Joe Castillo was devoted primarily to working with persons seeking refuge in this area along the border with Colombia.


According to information received by the Unit of Human Rights Defenders, Joe Castillo, who had received threats in the past because of his work, was shot nine times on Wednesday, August 27, 2003, as he was heading home, along with his wife and small son.  This act was allegedly perpetrated by two men on a motorcycle who opened fire on the human rights defender’s vehicle, killing him, wounding his wife, and leaving his ONE year old son in serous condition.


The IACHR recalls that at the last OAS General Assembly held in Chile, states adopted Resolution AG/RES. 1920 of June 10, 2003, once again condemning attacks on defenders and “decided to reiterate their recommendation to governments of member states to step up efforts to adopt the necessary measures to guarantee the life, personal safety, and freedom of expression of these defenders.”


The IACHR requests the State of Venezuela to guarantee the conditions necessary for the human rights defenders to develop their work, and to conduct an exhaustive investigation to establish the identify of those responsible for this act.



Washington, D.C., August 28, 2003