Voicing concerns over deteriorating restrictions on freedoms of expression, association and assembly in Venezuela, United Nations human rights experts today called on the Government to guarantee the safety of all individuals and their peaceful participation in the parliamentary elections, set for this Sunday.
“Reinstituting full space for the freedoms of expression, association and assembly, and ensuring accountability in all reports on violence is key to dissipating political tensions in Venezuela and to ensuring democratic governance,” David Kaye, UN Special Rapporteur on freedom of expression, and Maina Kiai, Special Rapporteur on the rights to freedom of peaceful assembly and of association, said jointly in a news release.
Warning that the recent killing and detention of prominent opposition politicians is “a very worrying sign” of the deteriorating environment for political participation, the experts emphasized that the “authorities must ensure the safety of those trying to exchange ideas in the last days of the electoral process.”
The safety of all, regardless of political views, is a bare minimum requirement of a peaceful election, stressed the rights experts.
Nevertheless, they stressed that the attacks were only “the tip of the iceberg,” and warned of deeper and more systematic challenges for public participation in the country.
“Democracy requires […] an environment where people can express political opinions, organize for political purposes and peacefully assemble – all without fear of retribution,” said Ms. Kiai, underscoring the significance of people’s rights to free speech, while Mr. Kaye condemned the limitations on media, saying that punishment and threats against journalists are “incompatible with international standards.”
Sharing their concerns to the Venezuela authorities through a communication, both human rights experts further reiterated their commitment to work with the Government to address the issue.
Special Rapporteurs, who are not UN staff and are independent from any government or organization, are appointed by and report back to the Geneva-based UN Human Rights Council.