Nº 15/02



The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) has been carefully following events in Venezuela, from a human rights points of view, in light of the grave developments that have been unfolding in that country.


After the events of April 11 and the subsequent alteration of the constitutional order, the Commission issued a press release on April 13, 2002, expressing, inter alia, its most emphatic condemnation of the violent acts that cost the lives of at least 15 people and injured more than a hundred. The Commission also expressed its regret over the arbitrary arrests and other human rights violations that took place over April 12 and 13 deplored the dismissal of top authorities from the three branches of government, and warned that those actions would constitute an interruption of the constitutional order as defined in the Democratic Charter.


Against that backdrop, on April 13 the Commission asked the de facto government for information on the arrest and incommunicado status of Mr. Hugo Chávez Frías, and it sought precautionary measures related to the freedom, personal integrity, and right to a fair trial of Mr. Tarek William Saab, chairman of the Foreign Affairs Committee of the Venezuelan National Assembly.


The IACHR has received information relating to events following the return to power of President Chávez, involving outbreaks of civil unrest, looting, and groups of hooded motorcyclists patrolling different districts of Caracas. The IACHR has also been told of harassment forcing major newspapers to suspend circulation; journalists being intimidated and, on account of security concerns, being prevented from doing their jobs; and many people expressing fears about their personal security and integrity. In light of these incidents, the Commission calls on the government of Venezuela to ensure that the human rights enshrined in the American Convention on Human Rights are ensured with respect to all persons under its jurisdiction.


The Commission reiterates the need for the investigations into the events of the past serveral days to fully respect the judicial guarantees that the American Convention upholds. In particular, the State must guarantee the right of all detainees to be informed of the reasons for their arrest and of the authority ordering, together with their right to be brought promptly before a competent judge and to receive assistance from legal counsel of their own choosing and to communicate freely and privately with that counsel.


The Inter-American Commission believes it should underscore the efforts to uphold human rights made by Venezuela’s nongovernmental organizations during the constitutional crisis. The IACHR will continue to keep a very close watch on developments in Venezuela’s human rights situation, and it offers the Venezuelan State its assistance within the limits of its competence.


Washington D.C., April 15, 2002.