VENEZUELA – Two women among nine cases of victims of politically motivated, arbitrary detentions

“A newly published investigation documents nine cases of victims of politically motivated arbitrary detentions in Venezuela between 2018 and 2022. Some were directly linked to political activism in opposition to the government. Others were for gender reasons or family ties to third parties considered suspicious by the government, as in the case of Emirlendris Benítez. The variety of these political motivations shows how highly vulnerable the general population is to falling victim to arbitrary detention and other serious human rights violations, with those affected ranging from declared opponents of the government to people who are not politically militant at all.

“Among the nine cases is Emirlendris Benítez: a mother, sister and tradeswoman. On 11 April 2023, she was facing an unjust sentence of 30 years in prison in inhuman conditions and needed urgent medical attention, including a complete diagnosis and comprehensive treatment for the serious consequences she has suffered as a result of the torture she has been subjected to since her arrest and during a period of incommunicado confinement.

“She has been arbitrarily detained since 5 August 2018 on unfounded grounds, falsely linked to acts of violence committed against Nicolás Maduro for the simple fact of sharing a car journey with third parties allegedly involved in such acts. Despite being pregnant, Emirlendris was tortured and subjected to a forced termination of her pregnancy. The after-effects of the beatings she suffered left her in need of a wheelchair and with other serious health problems. She is in the National Female Orientation Institute (INOF) in Los Teques, Caracas, some 30 kms from her family, who must provide her with food, water and supplies, despite the humanitarian emergency that continues to plague the country.

“María Auxiliadora Delgado, aged 49, and Juan Carlos Marrufo, aged 52, are a Venezuelan married couple with dual Spanish and Italian nationalities, respectively. They were arbitrarily detained by agents of the General Directorate of Military Counterintelligence (DGCIM) on 19 March 2021. Their only connection to the crimes of which they are accused appears to be limited to the fact that María Auxiliadora is the sister of a retired military officer with alleged links to an attempt on Nicolás Maduro’s life. They had decided to undergo in vitro fertilisation treatment when they were arrested.

“These cases are not in the past nor are they isolated. The arbitrary detentions, torture and forced disappearances, to which they have and continue to be subjected, are crimes under international law. This is why the Venezuelan authorities are being criminally investigated by the International Criminal Court, by Argentine courts under the principle of universal jurisdiction, and are subject to the scrutiny of the United Nations under the mandate of the Fact-Finding Mission and the High Commissioner for Human Rights. Pressure from the international community cannot relent,” said Erika Guevara-Rosas, Amnesty’s Americas Director.

“Venezuelan civil society organisations estimate that around 300 people are currently detained for political reasons in Venezuela. According to Foro Penal, there have been more than 15,700 politically motivated arbitrary detentions in Venezuela since 2014.”

SOURCES: Amnesty International, 23 April 2023 ; Amnesty International, 29 August 2023