N° 12/10




Washington, D.C., February 2, 2010 - The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) expresses its serious concern due to the grave acts of violence that have taken place in the demonstrations carried out in several cities of Venezuela during the week of January 25 2010, both in favor of and against the Government of President Hugo Chavez.

According to the available information, at least two protesters died in the context of demonstrations in favor and against the Government. Also, there were reported to be several wounded persons, including members of the security forces and protesters as a consequence of the improper use of force on the part of the authorities and the actions of the protesters themselves, both in favor of and against the Government. Press accounts indicate that the police have dispersed the protesters with tear gas and buckshot, and that several university students were arrested.

The Inter-American Commission reminds the Venezuelan State of its duty to control demonstrations within the framework of respect for inter-American human rights standards. As it has previously expressed: “In the Commission's view, agents may impose reasonable restraints on demonstrators to ensure that they are peaceful or to contain those who are violent, as well as to disperse demonstrations that become violent and obstructive. However, the actions of the security forces should protect, rather than discourage, the right to assembly and therefore, the rationale for dispersing the demonstration must be the duty to protect people. The law enforcement officer deployed in such contexts must contemplate the safest and quickest methods of dispersal that cause the least harm to the demonstrators”.

The Venezuelan State has the duty to investigate and fully clarify acts that violate human rights in proceedings that follow judicial guarantees; to judge those responsible; and to make reparations for the consequences of the violations.

The IACHR calls on Venezuela to engage in dialogue and allow the peaceful exercise of the right of assembly, includying carrying out demonstrations. The Inter-American Commission will follow closely the developments in that country and will continue to discharge its duties to promote and defend human rights pursuant to the instruments that govern its mandate.

A principal, autonomous body of the Organization of American States (OAS), the IACHR derives its mandate from the OAS Charter and the American Convention on Human Rights. The Commission is composed of seven independent members who act in a personal capacity, without representing a particular country, and who are elected by the OAS General Assembly.

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