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UN Calls Arbitrary Arrests of Venezuela's Opposition Leaders Illegal

  • Lisa Schlein

FILE - United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra'ad al-Hussein of Jordan speaks during a news conference at the United Nations European headquarters in Geneva, Switzerland, May 1, 2017.

U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra'ad al-Hussein is calling for the immediate release of two prominent Venezuelan opposition leaders who were taken into custody. The men, who had been under house arrest, were seized by authorities during raids on their homes early Tuesday.

Zeid says he is deeply concerned opposition leaders Leopoldo Lopez and Antonio Ledezma once again were in jail. The Venezuelan Supreme Court revoked their house arrests, claiming they were planning to flee.

FILE - Venezuela's opposition leader Leopoldo Lopez holds a national flag as he greets supporters outside his home in Caracas, Venezuela, following his release from prison.
FILE - Venezuela's opposition leader Leopoldo Lopez holds a national flag as he greets supporters outside his home in Caracas, Venezuela, following his release from prison.

The high commissioner’s spokeswoman, Ravina Shamdasani, tells VOA the U.N. Working Group on Arbitrary Detention has declared the detention of both Lopez and Ledezma to be arbitrary and says they never should have been arrested.

“It is absolutely illegal under international human rights law to arrest somebody and detain them arbitrarily," she said. "Now, the U.N. Working Group on Arbitrary Detention is the authority on these matters and they make their decisions after a careful review of the facts and the analysis of the law behind it.”

Shamdasani says the high commissioner is worried the excessive use of force will worsen the volatile situation in Venezuela. She adds at least 10 people were killed over the weekend while demonstrating against the election of a new body to rewrite the constitution, an act the opposition considers undemocratic.

FILE - Demonstrators watch a barricade burn after clashes broke out while the Constituent Assembly election is being carried out in Caracas, Venezuela, July 30, 2017.
FILE - Demonstrators watch a barricade burn after clashes broke out while the Constituent Assembly election is being carried out in Caracas, Venezuela, July 30, 2017.

“We have received many reports of violent house raids that have been carried out by security forces in various parts of the country. So, the high commissioner is calling on the government to ensure that it does not use excessive force in relation to people who disagree with them,” she said.

Shamdasani says the high commissioner is urging the Venezuelan government to carry out prompt, independent investigations in cases where excessive force may have been used. She says the human rights office will be closely monitoring events in the country.

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