Human rights defenders were threatened and politically motivated charges continued to be used against government critics. Accountability mechanisms to ensure justice or to act as an effective deterrent against police abuses remained weak. There were serious episodes of violence in the grossly overcrowded prison system leading to a number of deaths.
Criminal and police violence remained a serious problem in Venezuela’s cities. In May, the government created the Presidential Commission for the Control of Arms, Munitions and Disarmament to tackle the proliferation of small arms fuelling the violence. In November President Chávez ordered National Guard troops onto the streets to tackle widespread violent crime.
There were ongoing social protests. The Venezuelan Social Conflict Observatory registered 497 protests in September alone on a range of issues including labour rights and public security.
In October, Venezuela’s human rights record was assessed under the UN’s Universal Periodic Review. States raised concerns about a number of issues including the independence of the judiciary, threats to and harassment of human rights defenders, prison conditions, freedom of expression and impunity.
In October, the Supreme Court breached legally binding international obligations by disregarding a ruling by the Inter-American Court of Human Rights that the ban be lifted on opposition politician Leopoldo López running for office.Top of page
Human rights defenders were threatened and subjected to unfounded accusations by government officials and the state media. Human rights organizations were concerned that the lack of definition of “political rights” in the Law for the Defence of Political Sovereignty and National Self Determination, passed by the National Assembly in December 2010, could impede their work. The Law bans organizations considered to work for the defence of political rights from receiving international funding.
There were continuing reports of human rights violations by the police, including unlawful killings and torture. Most of these abuses were not properly investigated and little, if any, judicial action was taken.
Politically motivated charges continued to be used against government critics.
There were continuing concerns about the independence and impartiality of the judiciary.
Violence remained endemic in the chronically overcrowded prisons. In June, clashes between rival gangs in El Rodeo prison led to the deaths of some 27 prisoners.
In July, the Minister of Prison Services announced plans to release 40 per cent of the prison population to ease overcrowding. In November, she publicly threatened to dismiss judges who blocked her plans to speed up the trials of prisoners charged with minor offences. The Venezuelan Observatory of Prisons reported that in 2010 only a quarter of the prison population had been sentenced; the rest were on trial, awaiting a preliminary hearing or under investigation.Top of page
There were further restrictions on freedom of expression. In October, the National Telecommunications Commission, the state media regulator, imposed a large fine on Globovisión for violating the Law on Social Accountability in Radio, Television and Electronic Media. The television station was accused of “justifying crime” and promoting “hatred for political reasons” for its coverage of the prison riot at El Rodeo. Globovisión, whose journalists have previously been threatened and attacked and which faced other administrative investigations, appealed against this latest action in November. The appeal was pending at the end of the year.
Violence against women remained pervasive. In spite of measures taken in recent years, the authorities had yet to issue an action plan to address violence against women or regulations on implementing the 2007 Organic law on the right of women to a life free of violence.Top of page