Joint statement

Standing in Solidarity with Venezuelan Human Rights Defenders

The recent, ongoing, and unwarranted detention of five members of the Venezuelan NGO Azul Positivo is one more event in a series of threats, harassment, attacks, restrictions, reprisals, and criminal proceedings against Venezuelan civil society organizations and human rights defenders, which has been intensifying since November 2020. In recent months and weeks, state agents have forcibly entered the offices of civil society organizations, public threats have been made against defenders who engage with human rights mechanisms, NGO bank accounts have been frozen, and arrest warrants have been issued for aid workers. 

Venezuelan civil society operate in a context of serious legal and administrative obstacles, with domestic laws used to target human rights defenders, such as the “Law Against Hate.” These also have the effect of limiting the operations of NGOs and restricting their access to funding, essentially blocking the work of many organizations vital for Venezuelans in need. 

In a public statement, a number of UN independent human rights experts and regional experts have described threats and measures taken against Venezuelan civil society since November 2020 as amounting to “systematic persecution and stigmatization.”

It is essential that the organizations responding to the grave humanitarian and human rights crises in the country, and pushing for accountability for violations and abuses and the return of guarantees provided by democratic institutions and processes, are able to do their work without fear or hindrance.

Human rights defenders are critical, constructive, and essential to democracies and the functioning of the rule of law. Attempts to silence and cow them are counterproductive and shameful.

We urge the Venezuelan authorities to ensure that harassment and threats against Venezuelan defenders stop and for all international legal guarantees to be respected. We call on all states and UN bodies and agencies to actively support civil society organizations, defenders, and activists and to speak up loudly and consistently for the right to defend human rights in Venezuela and globally. 

We are inspired by the daily commitment and courage of Venezuelan human rights defenders and humanitarian workers, and stand in solidary with our Venezuelan partners and friends.  

Amnesty International 
Center for Justice and International Law (CEJIL)
CIVICUS
Civil Rights Defenders 
Conectas Diretos Humanos
Freedom House 
Global Centre for the Responsibility to Protect 
Human Rights Watch 
International Commission of Jurists 
International Service for Human Rights 
People in Need 
Washington Office on Latin America (WOLA)