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Rights groups: Venezuela protesters tortured by government

[JURIST] Human Rights Watch (HRW) and the Penal Forum [advocacy websites released a joint-report [text] on Wednesday that revealed human rights and humanitarian crises in Venezuela, as the government continues to arbitrarily arrest, prosecute, and, in some cases, torture critics of the government.

Since early April 2017, more than 5,400 people have reportedly been detained after participating in anti-government protests. According to the rights groups, detainees are often exposed to excessive force, torture and inhuman treatment. The report revealed 88 documented cases that described at least 314 people that were subjected to serious human rights violations in Caracas and 13 states between April and September 2017.

Security forces have allegedly subjected detainees to electric shocks, severe beating, sleep deprivation, sexual abuse, tear gas, starvation, and more in an attempt to either punish detainees or incriminate themselves. On the streets, security forces have used excessive force to suppress anti-government protests. In some cases, forces have used modified rubber-pellet shotgun shells that instead shot marbles, broken glass, or metal bolts.

The joint report called on the the Lima Group, the European Union and other UN Member States [official websites] to put international pressure on the Venezuelan government to release those who are unlawfully detained and to impose targeted sanctions against specific Venezuelan officials implicated the abuses. States party to the Convention Against Torture [text, PDF] were asked to invoke Article 5 of the Convention to exercise criminal jurisdiction over any Venezuelan authority responsible for torture. Finally, the report called on the UN Human Rights Council [official website] to request the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) to open an international investigation into human rights violations in Venezuela.

Venezuela has experienced a significant amount of political unrest since the opposition gained control of the National Assembly in December 2015.

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