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Venezuela Must Cease Repression of Civil Society

Provea's director speaks at the "United for Human Rights" conference in Caracas, Venezuela. Provea, an NGO, has been targeted by Nicolás Maduro’s government for its role in exposing human rights violations in Venezuela. © 2018 Provea

As Venezuela’s crisis of authoritarianism deepens, civil society voices are increasingly coming under attack by the de facto government of Nicolás Maduro. On March 30, the Venezuelan Ministry of Interior and Justice published a new requirement in the Official Gazette for the registry of “natural and legal entities” under the Organic Law Against Crime and Terrorism, obligating all non-governmental organizations (NGOs) and non-profit organizations in the country to provide sensitive information regarding their activities, contributions, and beneficiaries. For example, under its broad definition of “beneficiaries,” the measure establishes the alarming requirement that humanitarian and human rights NGOs reveal the identities of the victims and vulnerable communities that they serve. This action is a clear effort to monitor and limit the work of independent civil society organizations, which under Venezuelan law are already required to register with the state.

This measure is the latest in a string of actions intended to restrict and intimidate civil society organizations, especially those that receive support from international donors. In October 2020, the Maduro government issued a resolution requiring international NGOs seeking to operate within Venezuela to register “activities to be carried out in the territory of the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela,” and their intentions. Shortly thereafter, the government’s Superintendency of Venezuelan Banking Institutions (Sudeban) announced on November 20, 2020 that it would require all financial institutions in Venezuela to monitor all business and financial operations carried out by non-profit organizations in the country. The criteria issued on March 30 are an extension of these efforts to restrict, intimidate, and potentially criminalize independent civil society organizations in Venezuela.

We are also concerned by reports that the National Assembly inaugurated in January has introduced legislation that may further restrict the activities of civil society organizations in Venezuela, and the rights of human rights defenders. On April 15, the Committee on Foreign Relations, Sovereignty and Integration proposed a “Law of International Cooperation” in the National Assembly, which has already passed the first round of debate in the Committee. Though the text of this legislation has not been made public, the signing organizations anticipate that this legislation will likely impose additional restrictions on the ability of NGOs in the country to access international funding for their activities, as did a similar “Law on International Cooperation” proposed in 2015.

The threat of these restrictions and registration requirements is very serious given the harassment, intimidation, and arbitrary detentions that civil society and NGO actors in Venezuela have faced in recent months. On January 12, five human rights defenders of the Venezuelan NGO Azul Positivo, which works to provide assistance to those living with HIV/AIDS and other sexually transmitted illnesses, were arbitrarily detained and held for nearly a month under unsubstantiated charges of money laundering and terrorism financing. These charges have yet to be dropped after the defenders’ conditional release on February 10, leading independent United Nations rights experts to call on the Venezuelan authorities to “stop continuous and increasing attacks and intimidation against civil society organizations and journalists in the country.” Dozens of civil society organizations across Venezuela have similarly faced intimidation and threats such as public accusations and defamation, the freezing of bank accounts, arrest warrants, and raids on NGO offices by the security forces. Between January and March 2021, the Centro de Justicia y Paz (CEPAZ) recorded 215 instances of persecution and criminalization by the Maduro government. This pattern has also been denounced by UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet. On February 22, the High Commissioner announced that her office had “documented at least 66 cases of intimidation, harassment, disqualification and criminalization of journalists, media outlets, human rights defenders, humanitarian workers, union leaders and members or supporters of the opposition” since September 2020. Several organizations alerted the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights in a public hearing about the criminalization of human rights defenders and civil society organizations and its acceleration in the current context.

As organizations devoted to defending human rights in the Americas, we are deeply concerned by this development and urge the Venezuelan authorities to comply with their international human rights obligations and immediately cease the repression and harassment of independent Venezuelan civil society. We call on the international community and all relevant United Nations bodies and agencies to actively support civil society organizations, human rights defenders, humanitarian workers, and other activists in Venezuela, and to ensure that their steady persecution is not met with indifference. Venezuela urgently needs a peaceful, democratic solution to its political, humanitarian, and human rights crisis, which will not be possible without an active and independent civil society pushing it forward.

Signing Organizations:

  1. Acceso a la Justicia, Venezuela
  2. Acción Solidaria, Venezuela
  3. AlertaVenezuela, Venezuela
  4. Asociación Civil Fuerza, Unión, Justicia, Solidaridad y Paz (FUNPAZ), Venezuela
  5. Asociación Civil Más Ciudadanos, Venezuela
  6. A Todo Pulmón, Venezuela
  7. Aula Abierta, Venezuela
  8. Aquí Cabemos Todos, Venezuela
  9. Centro de Estudios Sociales y Culturales (CENSO-C), Venezuela
  10. Civilis Derechos Humanos, Venezuela
  11. Comité de Defensa de los Derechos Humanos de los Adultos Mayores, Pensionados, Jubilados y Discapacitados, Venezuela
  12. Coordinadora de Lucha Vecinal Lara, Venezuela
  13. DefiendeVenezuela, Venezuela
  14. DPR-Lara, Venezuela
  15. Epikeia Derechos Humanos, Venezuela
  16. Espacio Público, Venezuela
  17. Fundación Iribarren Lucha, Venezuela
  18. Fundación Lucelia, Venezuela
  19. Fundación para el Debido Proceso (Fundepro), Venezuela
  20. Movimiento Ciudadano Dale Letra, Venezuela
  21. Observatorio Electoral Venezuela (OEV), Venezuela
  22. Observatorio de Derechos Humanos de la Universidad de los Andes, Venezuela
  23. Observatorio Hannah Arendt, Venezuela
  24. Observatorio Venezolano de Prisiones, Venezuela
  25. Organización StopVIH, Venezuela
  26. Promoción, Educación y Defensa en Derechos Humanos (PROMEDEHUM), Venezuela
  27. Proyecto de Extensión Visibilización y Educación en DDHH de la Face, Venezuela
  28. Red de Activistas Ciudadanos por los Derechos Humanos (REDAC), Venezuela
  29. Una Ventana a la Libertad, Venezuela
  30. Unión Cívica Nacionalista, Venezuela
  31. Urgent Action for Democracy and Development, Venezuela
  32. Venezuela Diversa AC, Venezuela
  33. Asociación Nacional de Familiares de Secuestrados, Detenidos y Desaparecidos del Perú (ANFASEP), Peru
  34. Asociación Por la Vida y la Dignidad Humana (APORVIDHA), Peru
  35. Asociación Pro Derechos Humanos, Peru
  36. Asociación Servicio Educativo para el Desarrollo y la Solidaridad (SEDYS) de Trujillo, Peru
  37. Asociación Servicios Educativos Rurales (SER), Peru
  38. Centro Loyola Ayacucho, Peru
  39. Centro de Promoción y Defensa de los Derechos Sexuales y Reproductivos (PROMSEX), Peru
  40. Comisión de Derechos Humanos (COMISEDH), Peru
  41. Comisión de Derechos Humanos de Alto Huallaga (CODHAH), Peru
  42. Comisión de Derechos Humanos de Ica, Peru
  43. Comisión de Derechos Humanos de Moyobamba, Peru
  44. Comisión de Derechos Humanos de Pucallpa, Peru
  45. Comisión de Justicia Social de Chimbote, Peru
  46. Comisión de Solidaridad Desarrollo y Justicia (COSDEJ), Peru
  47. CooperAccion, Peru
  48. Coordinadora Nacional de Derechos Humanos, Peru
  49. Derechos Humanos y Medio Ambiente (DHUMA), Peru
  50. Fundación Ecuménica el Desarrollo y la Paz, Peru
  51. Instituto de Defensa Legal, Peru
  52. Instituto Runa de Desarrollo y Estudios sobre Género, Peru
  53. Instituto Sur Andino de Derechos Humanos (ISADH) de Puno, Peru
  54. Lesbianas Independientes Feministas Socialistas (LIFS), Peru
  55. Movimiento Manuela Ramos, Peru
  56. Movimiento JATARISHUN, Peru
  57. Paz y Esperanza, Peru
  58. Comisión Colombiana de Juristas, Colombia
  59. Fundación Brisas del Norte, Colombia
  60. Venezolanos en Barranquilla, Colombia
  61. Abogadas y Abogados para la Justicia y los Derechos Humanos, Mexico
  62. Comisión Mexicana de Defensa y Promoción de los Derechos Humanos, Mexico
  63. Revista Digital Inalienable, Ecuador
  64. Venezolanos en Guayaquil, Ecuador
  65. El Centro para la Apertura y el Desarrollo de América Latina (CADAL), Argentina
  66. Oficina Jurídica para la Mujer, Bolivia
  67. Conectas Dereitos Humanos, Brazil
  68. Asociación Pro-Búsqueda, El Salvador
  69. Equipo de Reflexión, Investigación y Comunicación, Honduras
  70. Activados Panamá, Panama
  71. International Service for Human Rights (ISHR), Switzerland
  72. Canada Venezuela Democracy Forum, Canada
  73. Centro por la Justicia y el Derecho Internacional (CEJIL), International
  74. Comisión Internacional de Juristas, International
  75. Human Rights Watch, International
  76. Instituto Internacional sobre Raza, Igualdad y Derechos Humanos, International
  77. Red Jesuita con Migrantes LAC, International
  78. Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights, International
  79. Women’s Link Worldwide, International
  80. América Diversa, USA
  81. Coalición por Venezuela, USA
  82. Derechos Humanos con DR, Corp., USA
  83. Fe en Venezuela, USA
  84. Washington Office on Latin America (WOLA), USA
  85. Venezuelans and Immigrants Aid, USA

 

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