IACHR REPUDIATES ARREST OF GUILLERMO ZULOAGA IN VENEZUELA
Washington, D.C., March 25, 2010—The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) repudiates the arrest of Guillermo Zuloaga in Venezuela, which came about as part of an open investigation resulting from statements he made at an assembly of the Inter-American Press Association (IAPA).
The Attorney General of the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela, Luisa Ortega Díaz, announced that Zuloaga was detained today at the Josefa Camejo Airport in Punto Fijo, in the state of Falcón. His arrest came about as a result of a warrant that had been issued as part of an open investigation resulting from a complaint filed with the Attorney General's Office by a member of Venezuela's National Assembly. The information received indicates that Zuloaga was heading to the island of Bonaire to vacation with his family over Easter Week. The Attorney General's Office stated that "there are sufficient elements to establish a presumption of risk that the businessman would not face the criminal proceedings initiated following the complaint regarding his speech at a meeting of the Inter-American Press Association (IAPA)."
The IACHR and its Office of the Special Rapporteur for Freedom of Expression express their deep concern over Zuloaga's arrest, which evidences the lack of independence of the judiciary and the utilization of the criminal justice system to punish criticism, producing an intimidating effect that extends to all of society. The Commission reiterates in all its terms the content of its Press Release 36/10, in which it expressed its serious concern over the use of the punitive power of the State to criminalize and persecute through the criminal system persons the authorities consider political opponents in Venezuela.
The IACHR decided to send a letter to the government of Venezuela, under the terms of Article 41 of the American Convention on Human Rights, in order to request information on Zuloaga's arrest and the investigation being conducted by the Attorney General's Office. The IACHR and the Office of the Special Rapporteur for Freedom of Expression once again urge the Venezuelan authorities to guarantee complete freedom of expression of opinions and criticisms.
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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