Venezuelan Authorities Must Release Detained Human Rights Defenders

On 2 July, Venezuelan human rights defenders Javier Tarazona, Rafael Tarazona, and Omar García from the organisation Fundaredes were detained by Venezuelan authorities for inciting hatred, treason, and terrorism – charges that are often used by the regime to silence critical voices and stifle freedom of speech. In a joint statement, Civil Rights Defenders and ten human rights organisations call for their release. 

The undersigned organisations wholly reject and express profound concern about the 2 July detention and incarceration of the three human rights defenders (HRDs) from the NGO Fundacion Redes (Fundaredes), including the organisation’s director, Javier Tarazona, as well as activists Rafael Tarazona and Omar García. Their detention is the latest event reflecting rapidly escalating political persecution and criminalization of the HRDs in Venezuela who independently monitor, document, and report on the country’s critical human rights situation. 

On 2 July, the Bolivarian Intelligence Service (SEBIN, by its Spanish acronym) detained the three activists, along with a fourth, Jhonny Romero of the NGO CONFAVIT, outside the office of the Prosecutor General of the state of Falcon. The activists had been denouncing harassment by SEBIN the previous day, during a training for HRDs. After several hours, Romero was released. However, the three Fundaredes’ activists were transferred to Caracas and presented before a terrorism tribunal, where they were charged with inciting hatred, treason, and terrorism—charges frequently used in Venezuela to criminalize HRDs and journalists seeking to defend fundamental freedoms. All three activists remained in prison after being denied access to their lawyers, and instead assigned a public defender. Meanwhile, their lawyers were denied access to the case filings, hampering any possibility of providing an adequate defense. 

In light of these events, we remind Venezuelan authorities that arbitrary detentions and incarceration, imposing false charges for political reasons, denying the right to a reasonable defense, obstructing justice and due process, as well as the consistent use of the justice system as a tool for political persecution, all amount to possible crimes against humanity, as recognized by the United Nations’ Independent Fact-Finding Mission for Venezuela. Moreover, the detention of the Fundaredes’ activists only one day after the publication of the UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights’ (UNOHCHR) report on Venezuela’s feeble compliance with UN recommendations, reinforces the Maduro government’s consistent lack of commitment to international cooperation or respect for international standards.  

Venezuela should guarantee the basic conditions for HRDs to perform their work freely and safely, without fear of reprisal or incarceration. We demand that Venezuelan authorities immediately release Javier Tarazona, Rafael Tarazona, and Omar García, and cease to criminalize the critical work of HRDs to document abuses and defend the rights of Venezuelans.

Undersigned organisations    

Amnesty International 
Centro para la Apertura y el Desarrollo de América Latina (CADAL) 
Civil Rights Defenders 
Due Process of Law Foundation (DPLF) 
Fundación Ciudadanía y Desarrollo 
Freedom House 
International Institute on Race, Equality and Human Rights 
International Service for Human Rights 
Instituto de Prensa y Libertad de Expresión 
Programa Venezolano de Educación Acción en Derechos Humanos (PROVEA) 
Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights 

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