Amnesty denounces deadly Venezuela protest crackdown

24th March 2015, Comments 0 comments

Amnesty International on Tuesday condemned a crackdown on demonstrations that swept Venezuela last year and which left 43 people dead, saying protesters were shot, electrocuted and sexually assaulted.

The London-based human rights group also warned that Venezuela's failure to investigate and bring to justice those responsible for these human rights abuses "is effectively giving a green light to more abuses and violence".

"In Venezuela, the vast majority of human rights violations are not investigated or punished," Amnesty said in a report released in Madrid.

"Instead of sending a clear message condemning human rights violations, the authorities have continued to seek to justify the unlawful actions of the security forces in the name of public order and security and of political stability," it added.

Security forces and pro-government armed groups beat, tortured and fired live ammunition at protesters during the demonstrations held between February and July 2014, Amnesty said.

Using victim testimony and photographic evidence, the 47-page report documents cases of people who were sexually abused, asphyxiated, electrocuted and threatened with death while in custody.

"We were put in a foetal position, on our knees and they beat us, beat us, beat us," Juan Manuel Carrasco, 21, who was arrested in Valencia in northern Venezuela was quoted as saying in the report.

"A guard came out and told us that even if we prayed to our damned God we would not get out of this, that it was our last day. They lowered my pants and inserted something in my behind."

During the protests 3,351 people were detained, scores arbitrarily, Amnesty said. Most were released without charges.

Amongst the dead and injured were protesters, passers-by and members of the security forces, it added.

The Amnesty report also condemned the "arbitrary arrests" of the mayor of Caracas, Antonio Ledezma, and opposition leader Leopoldo Lopez.

Lopez was jailed in February 2014 on charges of inciting the violence that swept the country at protests over violent crime, soaring prices and shortages of basic goods.

Ledezma, an opposition politician, was arrested last month over what Venezuelan president Nicolas Maduro alleges is a coup plot financed by the United States.

"The level of violence will intensify and more lives will be lost unless the Venezuelan government prioritises the protection of human rights and the executive sends a clear message that excessive use of force by the security forces will not be tolerated," the report said.

The Amnesty report comes after US President Barack Obama on March 9 ordered new sanctions against Venezuelan officials involved in cracking down on the opposition, provoking Caracas to recall its envoy to charge d'affairs to Washington.

© 2015 AFP

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