The Penal Forum on the events that took place on January 15, 2018, in El Junquito, in which Oscar Pérez and at least eight others lost their lives in a violent way, expresses to the Venezuelans and the international community what follows:
FIRST: We repudiate any act of violence or any attack against life, without distinctions. The right to life is inviolable, as clearly stated in the Article 43 of the Constitution and multiple International Treaties in force in Venezuela. In addition, in accordance with the BASIC PRINCIPLES ON THE EMPLOYMENT OF FORCE AND FIREARMS BY THE OFFICIALS RESPONSIBLE FOR ENFORCING THE LAW, adopted at the Eighth United Nations Congress on the Prevention of Crime and the Treatment of Offenders, in Havana , Cuba, on September 7, 1990, it is the duty of the State, even when carrying out police functions or control of public order, to guarantee the life and physical integrity of all citizens, including those who have been identified as authors or participants in punishable acts, procuring in police and security operations, whenever possible, the use of non-lethal or incapacitating weapons in order to cause the least possible harm to those who want to neutralize or even innocent third parties, alien to the acts; respecting the right of people to be held and treated as innocents until a final sentence does not provide otherwise and to be submitted, if appropriate, to formal justice, without incurring in practices that may be considered as executions or informal executions or as the informal application of the death penalty, expressly prohibited in Venezuela by the Constitution.
SECOND: Even in extreme situations, it is the obligation of the State, represented by the officials in charge of enforcing the law, to use and exhaust as far as possible non-violent means before resorting to the use of force and firearms. Force and firearms can only be used when other means are ineffective or in no way guarantee the achievement of the expected result, and even in these cases the acting officials must act with moderation, taking into account objectively the seriousness of the situation of according to the end to be pursued, and minimizing the risks of damage to life and physical integrity of the people involved.
Consequently, even assuming that, in the events that occurred on January 15, 2018, there had been a legitimate operation that authorized, according to the regulations in force, the differentiated and progressive use of public force and weapons, in the context of a legitimate criminal investigation conducted according to the respective rules, is not justified in any case, and is a crass contradiction, that in an act of alleged “fight against crime” the State itself and its officials, violate the national and international rules that they are obliged to comply with in these situations and are also placed outside the law.
THIRD: According to the principle 8 of the aforementioned set of BASIC PRINCIPLES ON THE USE OF FORCE AND FIREARMS BY THE OFFICIALS RESPONSIBLE FOR ENFORCING THE LAW, exceptional circumstances such as internal political instability or any other circumstance cannot be invoked public emergency situation to justify the breach of the basic principles that govern the use of force by state security officials.
FOURTH: According to the Article 324 of the Constitution in force in Venezuela, the monopoly on the use of weapons is held by the State, represented in these cases by the regular components of the National Armed Forces and police forces, its use is limited by norms directed to the protection of Human Rights (Art. 332, second paragraph, of the CRBV) and especially of the life and physical integrity of the people. It is absolutely unacceptable, and even constitutes a very serious violation of Human Rights, to allow, promote or endorse the participation of irregular or paramilitary individuals or civic groups, without legal competence or training, in police or military operations or, in general, in functions of security or control of public order.
FIFTH: The use of weapons of war, such as rocket launchers (RPG-7) and others of very high lethal potential, against citizens who had publicly declared their intention to lay down their arms and surrender to the authorities, constitutes a serious crime and a flagrant violation to Human Rights.
SIXTH: By virtue of the foregoing, we demand from the Public Prosecutor’s Office and the Ombudsman’s Office an independent, exhaustive, objective and impartial investigation into the facts, not only with the object of determining the truth of the facts as to who they have been stigmatized by the government, without ever having been subjected to formal justice, as “terrorists” or “criminals”, but also aimed at establishing, in the police and military officials acting as well as in the civilians involved, their possible responsibilities for the illegal, improper and disproportionate use of lethal force.
In Caracas on the seventeenth (17th) day of the month of January Two Thousand Eighteen (2018) .-
Alfredo Romero – Executive Director
Gonzalo Himiob Santomé – Director
Robiro Terán – Director
Mariela Suárez – National Operative Coordinator
Dimas Rivas – Aragua State Coordinator
Luis Armando Betancourt – Carabobo State Coordinator
Laura Valbuena – Zulia State Coordinator
Patricia Borges – Bolívar State Coordinator
Raquel Sánchez – Táchira State Coordinator
José Armando Sosa – Monagas State Coordinator
Lucía Quintero – Barinas State Coordinator
José Reyes – Falcón State Coordinator
Abraham Cantillo – Lara State Coordinator
Fernando Cermeño – Mérida State Coordinator
Alberto Iturbe – Miranda State Coordinator (Altos Mirandinos)
Adriana Nápoles – Miranda State Coordinator (Valles del Tuy)
Rossana Carreño – Anzoátegui State Coordinator
Olnar Ortiz – Amazonas State Coordinator
Néstor Gutiérrez – Cojedes State Coordinator
Pedro Arévalo – Nueva Esparta State Coordinator
José Torres Leal – Portuguesa State Coordinator
Daniel Salazar – Sucre State Coordinator
Rafael Maldonado – Trujillo State Coordinator
Gabriel Gallo – Yaracuy State Coordinator
Wiecza Santos – ApureState Coordinator