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The torture of political prisoners in Venezuela is not new, but the death of a Navy captain has raised the alarm about human rights violations
On June 29, the death of Rafael Acosta Arévalo, a corvette captain who had disappeared since June 21, whose whereabouts were unknown until two days before a trial, was known. After his wife had reported him missing, on June 27 a list of 13 arrested accused of plotting a coup was published.
In addition to the strange conditions in which he had been accused, the traces of torture in his body aroused concerns once again about the conditions in which the political prisoners are held and about the violations that occur in the Maduro regime. In an interview for EVTV Miami, Walewska Pérez, the captain's wife, stated that in the courtroom where he was taken a day before his death, "he was severely beaten, in a wheelchair, he could not speak, he could not make anything by himself ( ...) They tortured him a lot, they tortured him so much that they killed him. Unfortunately, he did not agree with what was happening in the country."
When the autopsy was known, it was determined that the death was due to "severe cerebral edema due to acute respiratory failure due to rhabdomyolysis due to widespread polytrauma," the journalist Eligio Rojas reported on his Twitter account. The edema could have been caused by injuries that ended up breaking the blood vessels and causing a hemorrhage, in which it was also determined that Rafael Acosta had suffered severe burns and had 38 injuries.
Because of this, two soldiers were arrested and will now be tried for the crime of pre-intentional homicide with cause, but not for torture, which is the judgment of the international community.
The UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Michelle Bachelet, called on international organizations to review what is happening in Venezuela, because this is just one more case of the hundreds that are suspected of.
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The rejection by the opposition in Venezuela is evident. On Thursday, July 4, the High Commissioner published a report in which he has worked during the last year in which he demonstrated human rights violations in the country. The excessive use of force and deaths during demonstrations against the Government are one of the most recurring examples of violations that this report has compiled. In them, "the GNB (Bolivarian National Guard), the PNB (Bolivarian National Police), the FAES (Special Action Forces) and some state and municipal police allegedly used excessive force deliberately, in order to infuse fear and discourage future demonstrations."
However, this is only a fraction of what international organizations such as the High Commissioner or Human Rights Watch (HRW) have denounced. The political prisoners and their torture have been another point to consider when acting against the Maduro regime.
Regarding this, José Miguel Vivanco, HRW director for the Americas, said that "the Venezuelan government has brutally lashed out against soldiers accused of conspiracy. Intelligence agents are not only detaining and torturing the military, but in some cases they also go after their relatives or other civilians when they can not find the alleged perpetrators they are in search of." Captain Rafael Acosta's case is one of them, but other cases have been presented that have revealed the presence of extrajudicial executions by some soldiers.
According to HRW, there is information on 32 torture cases, among which there are former members of the Armed Forces who are being accused of conspiring against the government. For its part, Bachelet said that only in January 2019 37 death cases were reported, whose conditions were not clear. In 2018, the Casla Institute, another international organization, denounced to the Organization of American States (OAS) 106 torture cases, of which 61% had been to the military and the remaining percentage to civilians. Meanwhile, another Venezuelan NGO denounced to Caracol Radio that there are currently more than 200 imprisoned soldiers and that the majority show signs of torture.
This lack of concordance in the figures has not allowed the organizations to define a final number of tortures, deaths and political prisoners. To the difference in the data provided by NGOs, two other factors are added. On the one hand, according to Michelle Bachelet after her visit to the country between June 19 and 21, many people do not denounce certain human rights violations for fear of what might happen to them, as has also been seen with many members of the Military Forces.
On the other hand, and more worrying for the international community, Nicolás Maduro's Government does not have official figures on many of the issues, such as torture, because officially these deaths have not been counted as torture. An example of this is the fact that the two soldiers implicated in the death of Acosta Arévalo are tried for another less serious offense. In addition, in the subjects in which they do have figures, as in the number of demonstrations, they do not match those of the NGOs either.
Therefore, the report published by the High Commissioner "urges the Government of Venezuela to immediately adopt specific measures to stop and remedy the serious violations of economic, social, civil, political and cultural rights that have been documented in the country." Likewise, a call has been made to the international community and international bodies such as the International Criminal Court or the Inter-American Court of Human Rights to take action on the matter in order to prevent these violations from happening.
LatinAmerican Post | Juliana Suárez
Translated from "La comunidad internacional pide claridad en las torturas en Venezuela"