The Human Rights Observatory of the University of Los Andes is one of the four Venezuelan organizations participating in the 174th session of the IACHR.

(Mérida 12/11/2019) – The Human Rights Observatory of the University of Los Andes (ODH-ULA)[1] participates this Tuesday, November 12, in a hearing granted by the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) in the framework of the 174th session, where it will expose the cases of extrajudicial executions and other serious human rights violations committed in the context of state repression in Venezuela that this organization has documented.

The ODH-ULA will present to the IACHR rapporteurs the figures of extrajudicial executions registered in the country and the cases occurred in the state of Mérida, whose victims by extension are legally assisted by the lawyers of this Observatory, as well as the cases of serious violations of human rights documented during the repression taken by law enforcement officials in the Andean entity. At the hearing entitled «Torture, extrajudicial execution and gross human rights violence due to State repression in Venezuela»  which is scheduled for 10:15 a.m. (Ecuadorian time), the non-governmental organizations Foro Penal, Un Mundo sin Mordaza and Defiende Venezuela will also participate.

According to figures published by the NGO Cofavic, between 2012 and 2019, 9.960 extrajudicial executions have been committed in Venezuela. This type of crimes have been perpetrated by law enforcement officials in the exercise of their functions, making arbitrary, abusive and unnecessary use of force, which constitutes a violation of national and international standards of the conduct of law enforcement officials.

This year alone, three people have been killed by law enforcement officials in Mérida. German Cohen, Wuilderman Paredes and a woman farmer, whose family members asked to reserve their name for fear of reprisals, were killed by members of the Bolivarian National Police (PNB)[2] or another law enforcement force.

German Cohen, a law student at the ULA[3], lost his life on January 23 after a day of protest convened by the president of the National Assembly, Juan Guaidó. Witnesses denounce that the murderer was a police officer. The body of the victim appeared calcined in the hours of the night. Only the person who burned German Cohen’s body has been detained so far, but the intellectual and material perpetrators of the murder have not yet been arrested. Almost 10 months later, the preliminary hearing on this case has been postponed five times and the murder remains unpunished.

On May 27, a woman farmer was murdered by Bolivarian National Police Officers as she was riding home on a motorcycle. The victim was sitting as a passenger and her ex-husband was driving. Passing through a police checkpoint, officers shot the woman in the back, mortally wounding her in the back of the neck. Her ex-husband and father of two daughters achieved to escape from police attack by running to hide behind some bushes. Three police officers are deprived of their liberty for the murder and the criminal process is in the trial phase.

Wuilderman Paredes, a panel beater from Tabay, Santos Marquina municipality of Mérida, was assassinated on June 8 as a result of multiple point-blank shots fired by a police officer in the context of a gasoline queue that had lasted more than a week. Paredes, along with other users, demanded that police officers allow the same vehicle to pass preferentially on repeated occasions to refuel, while the queue remained stationary. The police action was ordered by the chief of the PNB in Mérida, who remains detained along with five other officials.

In the same event where Wuilderman Paredes lost his life, the siblings Gerardo Paredes and Luis Paredes, the victim’s cousins, were injured by police officers. Gerardo Paredes was seriously injured by gunshot to his face, head and torso. For his part, Luis Paredes was hit in the head with the grip of a firearm.

The ODH-ULA denounces that the processes underway in this case have been plagued with delays and irregularities, such as the failure to comply with the hours set for the actions, the arbitrary postponement of the actions, the obstruction of victims and those who assist them from accessing the file, and the exclusion of the victims by extension of being parties to the process and receiving due reparation and compensation from the State.

Gunfire in the Eyes: Repeated Practice of State Repression

Another practice carried out by the State’s security forces, and/or armed collectives at their service, is to intimidate the population that legitimately protests, and apply disproportionate use of force with the objective not only of instilling fear but also of causing the greatest possible damage to the physical and psychological integrity of people.

ODH-ULA has determined that shooting in the faces of protesters is a repeated practice by law enforcement officials. During the social protests that took place in 2017, this Observatory registered 22 people injured in the eyes between the months of April and July, only in the state of Mérida. The victims lost one or both eyes as a result of shotgun pellets fired by police or military officials.

Cases of people seriously injured in other parts of the body by law enforcement officials in the framework of repressive actions have also been documented by ODH-ULA, as well as the deprivation of liberty as a form of punishment for demonstrating. Hundreds of young people and students have been detained without evidence and many of them remain detained without trial.

One of the most recent cases in Mérida is that of young Erickvaldo Márquez, a student in Physical Education at the ULA and a student leader, who was arrested at his home on September 13, 2017 and later charged with the murder of an official in the governor’s office of Mérida state, which occurred on April 24 of that year in the context of social protests in the city of Mérida. Márquez remains deprived of his liberty, without any evidence against him, and the trial hearings have been postponed without any justification on four occasions. To make matters worse, the young man has written to his mother about the torture he has received in prison.

In all the cases documented for this hearing by ODH-ULA, the Venezuelan state has denied truth, justice and reparation to the victims, encouraging impunity and the repetition of these human rights violations by law enforcement officials.

All hearings held during this session of the IACHR, which runs from November 8 to 14, can be viewed live at http://www.oas.org/es/cidh


[1] Acronym in Spanish (Observatorio de Derechos Humanos de la ULA).

[2] Acronym in Spanish (Policia Nacional Bolivariana).

[3] Acronym of University of Los Andes

ODH-ULA exposes to the IACHR cases of extrajudicial executions and state repression in Venezuela

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