Venezuela urged to release opposition leader

UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra'ad al-Hussein on Oct. 20 urged Venezuela to release politician and opposition leader Leopoldo López (BBC profile). Al Hussein expressed concern over the detention of López and 69 others who were arrested in connection with public protests that took place across Venezuela starting in February. Lopez was arrested on charges of instigating violence, damaging property and arson committed during a political rally on Feb. 12. López is the leader of the Popular Will party, which has garnered widespread supported from the student population in the country and strongly opposes the current government under Nicolas Maduro and the United Socialist Party. Al Hussein stated:

The prolonged and arbitrary detention of political opponents and protestors in Venezuela is causing more and more concern internationally. … It is only exacerbating the tensions in the country. … I call on the Venezuelan authorities to act on the opinions of the Working Group and immediately release Mr Lopez and [former mayor of San Cristobal Daniel] Ceballos, as well as all those detained for exercising their legitimate right to express themselves and protest peacefully.

The commissioner also condemned threats and intimidation directed at human rights activists.

A series of deadly protests in Venezuela has been a subject of international concern over the past year. In June the 16th Control Judge of Caracas Adriana López ordered López to remain in jail until an unspecified trial date. In May Human Rights Watch released an investigative report into allegations that government security forces have abused and unlawfully detained protesters. In March Maduro announced that three air force generals were arrested and brought before a military tribunal for plotting a coup. Earlier in March a group of UN independent experts asked Venezuela's government answer to allegations of abuse against journalists, media workers and demonstrators during the country's recent protests, and this request came only a week after UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay condemned the recent political violence in Venezuela and urged all parties involved to move towards meaningful dialogue in hopes of resolving the situation.

From Jurist, Oct. 21. Used with permission.

  1. Venezuelan opposition leader sentenced to over 13 years

    Venezuelan opposition leader Leopoldo Lopez on Sept. 11 was sentenced to 13 years and nine months in prison for inciting violence in nationwide protests in 2014. Lopez, a former Caracas borough mayor and Harvard University graduate, has long opposed leftist President Nicolás Maduro. Lopez surrendered to Venezuelan authorities in February 2014 amidst allegations he incited violent protests leading to 43 deaths that year. The sentence followed a 14-month trial in which Lopez's attorneys frequently complained of partisanism by the Caracas circuit court. The sentence is to be served at the Ramo Verde military prison where he has been held since his surrender. (Jurist)