GENEVA / VENEZUELA DETENTIONS

09-Oct-2018 00:01:31
Fifty-nine Colombian nationals are being detained in Venezuela in conditions described as “beyond monstrous” by the UN human rights office (OHCHR), which has also called for an investigation into the death of a political opponent of the Government who was being held by the country’s intelligence services. UNTV CH
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STORY: GENEVA / VENEZUELA DETENTION
TRT: 1:31
SOURCE: UNTV CH
RESTRICTIONS: NONE
LANGUAGE: ENGLISH /NATS

DATELINE: 9 OCTOBER 2018 GENEVA, SWITZERLAND
SHOTLIST
1. Exterior shot, Palais des Nations.
2. Wide shot, podium, speakers.
3. Med shot, journalists.
4. SOUNDBITE (English) Ravina Shamdasani, spokesperson, UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR):
“The 59 were accused of being Colombian paramilitaries but to date, no evidence or charges have been brought against them, and in November 2017, a Venezuelan judge had ruled that they should be unconditionally released. However, they remain in detention.”
5. Close up, journalists.
6. SOUNDBITE (English) Ravina Shamdasani, spokesperson, UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR):
“There have also been violent situations as you know in Venezuelan prisons, where because of these terrible conditions, or because of other ill-treatment, riots have broken out. So really the conditions are beyond monstrous in these detention facilities.”
7. Med shot, journalist.
8. SOUNDBITE (English) Ravina Shamdasani, spokesperson, UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR):
“Overcrowding is rife. The infrastructure is infested with rats and insects. Not all detainees have access to natural light. And in many detention centres across the country detainees have limited access to food and water, including drinking water.”
9. Close up, journalists typing.
10. SOUNDBITE (English) Ravina Shamdasani, spokesperson, UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR):
“As far as international human rights law is concerned, their detention could very well amount to arbitrary detention and this case has been referred to the UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention.”
10. Close up, journalist.
11. Med shot, journalists and TV camera technician.
12. Med shot, journalists.
STORYLINE
Fifty-nine Colombian nationals are being detained in Venezuela in conditions described as “beyond monstrous” by the UN human rights office (OHCHR), which has also called for an investigation into the death of a political opponent of the Government who was being held by the country’s intelligence services.

The Colombian detainees were picked up in a security operation in 2016 and are now in one cell at La Yerguara facility in the country’s capital, Caracas, according to OHCHR spokesperson Ravina Shamdasani.

She said that the men have been held without charge for more than two years, and many of them are sick.

Shamdasani said “the 59 were accused of being Colombian paramilitaries but to date, no evidence or charges have been brought against them. In November 2017, a Venezuelan judge had ruled that they should be unconditionally released. However, they remain in detention.”

The men were rounded up during so-called Operations for the Liberation of the People (OLP), which the Government had said were designed to break up criminal gangs and bring criminals to justice.

Asked about Fernando Alban, a critic of the government whose death was announced on Monday at the headquarters of the country’s intelligence services, Shamdasani confirmed the need for an independent, transparent investigation to clarify reports that he had jumped to his death from the 10th floor.
There has been a lot of speculation about the events surrounding his death, on whether Mr Alban had “committed suicide, whether he was thrown, or what exactly happened”, Shamdasani said.

In a call to the Venezuelan authorities to comply with that ruling and free the Colombian detainees, Ms Shamdasani underlined the dire conditions in the country’s prisons.

“Overcrowding is rife,” she said. “The infrastructure is infested with rats and insects. Not all detainees have access to natural light. And in many detention centres across the country, detainees have limited access to food and water, including drinking water.”

The deteriorating human rights situation in Venezuela was detailed in a recent UN report. Published in June, it highlighted the accelerating erosion of the rule of law amid unprecedented mass demonstrations and the excessive use of force in security operations.

Allegations of extrajudicial killings linked to OLP raids first surfaced in July 2015, the report states, after an operation in one of the poorest and most violent neighbourhoods in Caracas, Cota 905, in which 14 people died and 134 were arrested.

Citing information from the Attorney General’s Office, the OHCHR report notes that between July 2015 and March 2017, 505 people were killed in OLPs, including four women and 24 children. The UN report also details the deaths last year of 39 inmates at a detention centre in the state of Amazonas where security forces had retaken control after detainees had established a system of self-government within the facility since 2012.

“There have also been violent situations as you know in Venezuelan prisons, where because of these terrible conditions, or because of other ill-treatment, riots have broken out,” Shamdasani said. “So, really, the conditions are beyond monstrous in these detention facilities.”

According to civil society records, the UN human rights office report noted that “at least 570 people, including 35 children, were arbitrarily detained” in Venezuela between August 2017 and April 2018.

Shamdasani said that one of the Colombian prisoners, William Estremor, had been taken to a hospital emergency department on Monday. He was then reported to have been transferred to a small infirmary at premises in Caracas of the country’s intelligence services, but there has been no update on his condition, the OHCHR spokesperson explained.

“As far as international human rights law is concerned, their detention could very well amount to arbitrary detention,” Shamdasani said. “This case has been referred to the UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention.”

At its last session, the UN Human Rights Council mandated OHCHR to gather information on the situation in Venezuela and report back to Member States next year.
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