Venezuela democracy endure two sensational difficulties in 1992. Military agitators twice endeavored to overthrow the government, on February 4 and again on November 27. Both uprising were immediately subdued by loyalist forces. Repercussions of the endeavors wait on, however, and cast a suspicion shadow over the nation. The probability of another uprising perseveres, prove by reports of the abrupt development of soldiers in late July 1993 in Falcon and Zulia states and ensuing detainment of military faculty for addressing and proceeded with fears of uprising all through August to October.
Supporters of common society and popular government in Venezuela honestly dread that disappointed groups of the military may make another transition to expel authentic leaders from power. This prompted the suspension of guarantees and maltreatment of human rights.
Abuse of Human Rights
In response to both rebellion attempts, the government suspended a host of constitutional guarantees. Americas The government’s authority, in times of emergency, was not questioned for suspending certain rights. Both domestic law and international law to which Venezuela advocates allow the government to suspend certain basic guarantees including the rights to assembly and speech, and freedom from arbitrary arrest, among others, but only to the extend and for so long as the emergency requires.
Hundreds of persons were detained haphazardly, houses were stripped without limit, and, according to PROVEA, more than forty persons, including civilians and rebels who had surrendered to loyalist forces, were apparently extra judicially executed unequal to the circumstances. The suspension of freedom of expression led to restriction of numerous media outlets.
Violations of human rights did not cease with the return of guarantees, moreover. Human rights groups note that the government’s response to the military intimidation was in part, to initiate a “witch-hunt” of civilian protesters who may or may not have had any link to the coup attempts. Student and community leaders were frustrated. Family members of the military rebels were intimidated, harassed and in at least one case, suffered serious physical abuse and some of them in jail have not benefited from due process of law.
President Pérez suspended a mass of constitutional guarantees, including the prohibition of arrest without previous judicial authorization, the inviolability of the home, freedom of movement, freedom of expression, freedom of assembly, and freedom of protest peacefully.
Human rights groups criticized, along other human rights problems associated with the coup attempt, the practice of rounding up protestor in a letter to the president of the House of Representatives Domestic Policy Commission on December 8, 1992, nothing that those groups hard hit included university professors, students, political and community leaders, etc
On December 8 human rights groups also protested the continued incommunicado detention in desecration of Article 60(3) of the constitution of all individuals picked up at the end of November and held in military installation. They further criticized the State Prosecutor’s Office for failing to dispatch fiscals to military facilities to visit the detained Such an exercise of its power by the Public Ministry could have prevented the mistreatment of at least eighteen persons who disapproved having been tortured and otherwise abused by their military captors.
The case of two civilians interviewed in custody by Americas Watch informed Americas Watch that they had spent 14 days incommunicado in the military’s Fort Tiuna in Caracas, during which time they were tortured . According to the two, the torture took place in custody of Army Intelligence in the Las Casitas section of Fort Tiuna, and included being blindfolded for extended periods; interrogation for hour stretches the placing of a plastic bag filled with ammonia over their heads, blows to the head, stomach and ribs with a foam-covered wooden pole; and mock execution by firing squad. Garrido complained that he had been kicked in the forehead and beaten with fists as well.
He also stated that his captors told him they planned to rape his wife and daughter. He claimed to have received no medical attention while in detention. López added that his captors had applied electric shocks to both of his ears. Another civilian prisoner at San Carlos, informed Americans Watch that he had been detained by the National Guard on November 27. He claims to have been robbed by the soldiers and also struck in the head by their rifle butts. He was transferred to DISIP headquarters where, the state agents beat him with their fists, interrogated him, and threatened to kill his family.
Due Process Concerns
Participants in the attempted coup of February 4 are being tried under ordinary military justice procedures. Some 150 participants in the November 27 attempt, however both military and civilian, were tried by special ad hoc military courts; roughly fifty were convicted. President Pérez established the courts in Decree No. 2669, issued the same day as the suspension of guarantees. He justified the special court on two grounds. First, he reasoned that applying the extremely burdensome rules of ordinary procedure was invalid; the trials, he argued, would have been endless, as emphasized by the fact that the proceedings against the February 4 coup were still bogged down. Secondly he argued the violent nature of the uprising showed that Venezuela had experienced a genuine state of emergency which warranted setting up ad hoc courts and the application of special procedures.
Human rights groups and lawyers for those tried in the ad hoc courts challenged the courts’ constitutionality soon after their installation. Serious flaws of the ad hoc tribunals include:
- The expedited procedures in some cases allowing only hours before proceeding to the next step rendered an adequate defense impossible
The ability to appeal decisions was curtailed; and
- Civilians were tried in the ad hoc courts, although the Code of Military Justice anticipates the trial of only military personnel in such courts (Art 63).
- Rohde, C. C. (1993). Human Rights in Venezuela. Human Rights Watch.
- BOLíVAR, L. (2013). Overview of Human Rights in Venezuela. Politeja-Pismo Wydziału Studiów Międzynarodowych i Politycznych Uniwersytetu Jagiellońskiego, 10(24), 271-294.