Human rights defender's story: Comité de Familiares de Víctimas del Caracazo, Observatorio Venezolano de Conflictividad Social, Centro de Justicia y Paz, Control Ciudadano and it director Carlos Correa
Comité de Familiares de Víctimas del Caracazo (COFAVIC), Observatorio Venezolano de Conflictividad Social (OVCS), Centro de Justicia y Paz (CEPAZ), Control Ciudadano and Espacio Público are five non-governmental organisations working for the promotion of human rights in Venezuela.
The organisations have a history of engaging with UN human rights bodies and mechanisms, a crucial effort given the multidimensional crisis that Venezuela is experiencing, with whom they have denounced abuses in the country, including with the Fact-Finding Mission on Venezuela (FFM) established by the Human Rights Council in 2019. The FFM’s mandate includes the investigation of gross human rights violations in the country since 2014 and relies greatly on valuable information communicated by civil society groups such as those mentioned above.
All five NGOs have been stigmatised and discredited publicly and on social media by high-ranking State officials for their collaboration with the United Nations, including and specifically naming the directors of Control Ciudadano, Rocío San Miguel, and Espacio Público, Carlos Correa.
On 24 September 2020, the website Misión Verdad published an article titled ‘Dismantling the report of the ‘Independent Fact-Finding Mission in Venezuela’: the sources.’ The article named the five NGOs and directors as sources, discrediting them by stating that the allegations against the State were unsupported and accusing them of receiving foreign funding ‘to destabilise the country.’
Some information contained in the article was shared on social media by the Minister of Foreign Affairs. Subsequently, government officials made public remarks against civil society members, including through institutional media channels and official websites.
On 9 November 2020, Special Procedures mandate holders raised concerns about this public stigmatisation of NGOs, which they said appeared to be acts of reprisals for their cooperation with the UN, including the FFM.
On 6 May 2021, the Venezuelan government responded to mandate holders, arguing that references made by actors in public life cannot be considered ‘harassment’ and, noting that NGOs, as key actors in the democratic debate, are subject to a higher level of scrutiny and should have higher tolerance to criticism.
Public stigmatisation of civil society organisations and human rights defenders following their engagement with the UN is a form of reprisal and intimidation. In this case, authorities with a history of alleged abuses and violations are inciting harassment against legitimate civil society groups.
What do we want
We want the cases of COFAVIC, OVCS, CEPAZ, Control Ciudadano and its director Rocío San Miguel and, Espacio Público and its director Carlos Correa, to be widely recognised as constituting acts of reprisals. We want their public stigmatisation to end.