[JURIST] UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein [official profile] on Monday urged Venezuela to release politician and opposition leader Leopoldo Lopez [BBC profile]. Al Hussein expressed concern over the detention of Lopez and 69 others who were arrested in connection with public protests that took place across Venezuela starting in February. Lopez was arrested on charges of instigating violence, damaging property and arson committed during a political rally on February 12. Lopez is the leader of the Popular Will party, which has garnered widespread supported from the student population in the country and strongly opposes the current government under Nicolas Maduro [BBC profile] and the United Socialist Party. Al Hussein stated [press release]:
The prolonged and arbitrary detention of political opponents and protestors in Venezuela is causing more and more concern internationally. … It is only exacerbating the tensions in the country. … I call on the Venezuelan authorities to act on the opinions of the Working Group and immediately release Mr Lopez and [former mayor of San Cristobal Daniel] Ceballos, as well as all those detained for exercising their legitimate right to express themselves and protest peacefully.
The commissioner also condemned threats and intimidation directed at human rights activists.
A series of deadly protests in Venezuela has been a subject of international concern over the past year. In June the 16th Control Judge of Caracas Adriana Lopez ordered [JURIST report] Lopez to remain in jail until an unspecified trial date. In May Human Rights Watch released an investigative report into allegations that government security forces have abused and unlawfully detained protesters [JURIST report]. In March Maduro announced [JURIST report] that three air force generals were arrested and brought before a military tribunal for plotting a coup. Earlier in March a group of UN independent experts asked Venezuela’s government answer to allegations of abuse [JURIST report] against journalists, media workers and demonstrators during the country’s recent protests, and this request came only a week after UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay condemned [JURIST report] the recent political violence in Venezuela and urged all parties involved to move towards meaningful dialogue in hopes of resolving the situation.