The diagnoses presented below are the outcome of an Amnesty International investigation into armed violence and the citizen security situation in Venezuela from a human rights perspective. This includes a historical review of the measures taken by the State to address crime, as well as the identification of patterns of institutional violence and human rights abuses within the framework of security operations.
Amnesty International was able to determine that the Venezuelan government is responsible for the violation of the right to life and personal safety of thousands of victims on two levels. The first because the government has failed to guarantee the right to life in a context of violence between individuals, and the second because it has used military rationality and repressive measures to deal with criminality, which has led to serious human rights violations and, in particular, extrajudicial executions. Furthermore, Amnesty International was able to identify that the repressive policies adopted by the Venezuelan government end up criminalizing poverty, rather than applying preventive mechanisms to reduce crime. The government has intentionally used lethal force against the most vulnerable and socially excluded population.

In the absence of up-to-date, disaggregated and reliable figures and data on citizen security, diagnoses are salvaged and provided to contextualize the situation of violence in Venezuela.

This research was carried out in a context of lack of enjoyment of economic, social and cultural rights, such as the right to health and food, as well as lack of respect for and guarantee of civil and political rights, such as freedom of expression and the freedom from torture and other cruel treatment. Violence has been plaguing Venezuela for decades and, in the current context of humanitarian emergency, it aggravates the deterioration of the enjoyment of human rights, becoming an additional factor in the forced migration of Venezuelans.

Findings and facts

Who are the victims of extrajudicial executions?

“AFTER RAIDS, THREATS AND EXTORTION, DARWILSON WAS KILLED IN FRONT OF HIS FAMILY”

Alex Vegas | © 2018 Amnistía Internacional | Laura Rangel
Alex Vegas | © 2018 Amnistía Internacional | Laura Rangel

“WHAT DID MY SON DO TO THEM TO MAKE THEM KILL HIM?”

“SO MUCH LOOKING AFTER THEM TO HAVE THEM KILLED IN MY HOUSE AT THE END”

Alex Vegas | © 2018 Amnistía Internacional | Laura Rangel
Claudia Villareal | © 2018 Amnistía Internacional | Laura Rangel

“THERE’S NO REASON FOR THEM TO DRAW THEIR WEAPONS, THAT SHOULD BE THE LAST RESORT AND THERE’S NO DEATH PENALTY HERE”

Conclusions and recommendations

The prevailing violence and abusive use of force has been one of the great human rights challenges that Venezuela has failed to overcome. Armed violence and crime are responsible for high homicide rates and thousands of victims every year, mainly young men living in poverty. These murders, although committed by individuals, are ultimately the responsibility of the Venezuelan government, since it does not adequately prevent them through the investigation and punishment of those responsible for the deaths. The Venezuelan government has also obscured figures on security and has failed to deal effectively with civilian arms possession, which has a direct impact on armed violence.
In addition, after analysing the government’s response to the violence crisis in Venezuela, Amnesty International considers that, besides the various flaws in government policies, the authorities’ support for the intentionally lethal use of force and the practice of extrajudicial executions, most of whose victims are young men living in poverty, is extremely serious. Such actions follow a logic in which these young men, because of their profile, are considered criminals and, therefore, “internal enemies” that must be eradicated. Within the framework of law enforcement and the maintenance of public order, the authorities must guarantee the safety and life of all individuals and, when appropriate and in accordance with the law, detain persons suspected of committing crimes.
It is therefore imperative that the authorities in charge of security radically change the approach to public security. There is a need for a policy that makes human rights a priority, with clear preventive approaches, effective control mechanisms and attention to the socially excluded population, which is the most vulnerable to this crisis. Likewise, government policies must provide for an effective, transparent and socially accountable arms control system that prevents arms trafficking and the ensuing corruption.
Amnesty International, in accordance with international obligations, recommends that the Venezuelan government:
  • Halt messages that support the policy of repression, which includes the abusive and intentionally lethal use of force against poor youth;
  • Implement a policy of transparency and disclosure of information that allows for appropriate public policy-making (dealing with the prevention of violence, as well disarmament and the reform of police practices) that civil society organisations can oversee;
  • Investigate promptly and urgently the cases dealt with in this report, and also create a mechanism that gives priority to the investigation and punishment of extrajudicial execution cases;
  • Align police practices with the Basic Principles on the Use of Force and Firearms by Law Enforcement Officials;
  • Resume the full implementation of the disarmament measures recommended by the Presidential Commission on Disarmament, and strengthen the policy of arms control and regulation;
  • Accept the visits of the Special Procedures of the United Nations and the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, whose mandates are relevant to this issue.

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THIS IS NO WAY TO LIVE: PUBLIC SECURITY AND RIGHT TO LIFE IN VENEZUELA