It’s not that those of us who follow Venezuela are in any doubt about the scale of Human Rights violations the country has witnessed this year. It’s that, for posterity – and for the courts, the day we have any worth the name – generic hand-wringing is not enough. We need these violations documented, in granular detail.
That’s just what Human Rights Watch does in this exceptionally damning report. Over 103 pages, they document 45 specific instances of abuse in minute detail, on the basis of first-hand witness and victim statements.
This means taking an investigator’s approach to the task, looking for corroborating details from independent sources to weave together detailed narratives that leave really very little room for doubt.
A taste, from a protest in Valencia on March 20th:
Martínez, who had been participating in the protests, also fled when National Guard motorcycles approached, and was trapped on the same street as Méndez and Rodríguez. There, he was knocked to the ground by a passing guardsman on a motorcycle, and then surrounded by about a dozen guardsmen, who kicked him repeatedly all over his body though he offered no resistance, he told Human Rights Watch.
When the beating stopped, he lifted himself up and held out his wallet to the officers, saying it was the only thing he had on his person. In response, he said, the guards, “Grabbed me by the head, threw me to the ground, put a boot on my face and shot me.” He was shot him in the thigh at point blank range. The rubber bullet struck a set of keys in his pocket, blowing metal fragments from several keys into his leg. He said he did not feel any pain at first due to the shock, but reached down and touched an exposed part of the bone on his leg.
Maldonado, who was trapped on the same street, did not know Martínez, but saw what happened. He described Martínez’s beating, recounted how Martínez was shot at point blank range, and provided other details corroborating Martínez’s account.
Maldonado said Martínez was one of four people that he saw national guardsmen shoot on the street from point blank range. He told Human Rights Watch that, from his vantage point halfway down the street, he saw one of the guardsmen give orders to others to shoot the individuals. None were resisting arrest or posed a flight risk, Maldonado said. In each instance, the guardsman gave the same order: “Give it to this one,” after which the individuals were shot.
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