NEW YORK (January 16, 2018) — The Human Rights Foundation (HRF) condemns the extrajudicial killing of anti-regime uprising leader Oscar Perez by Venezuelan security forces.
In the early hours of January 15, Venezuelan state security operatives cornered Perez and his allies at their hideout in the El Junquito neighborhood near Caracas. Despite repeated pleas of surrender by Perez and those in his group, government forces opened fire against them with anti-tank rocket-propelled grenades and sniper rifles. Prior to his death, Perez uploaded videos of the assault on his hideout and his pleas for surrender to social media. Perez, a former police inspector who called for an uprising against the Maduro regime in 2017, was reported dead by CNN. A leaked photo of Perez’s dead body circulated last night.
“When Hugo Chávez orchestrated a bloody, failed coup d’etat in 1992, he was treated with dignity and due process by a democratic government that sentenced him to prison, later granted him a presidential pardon, and even allowed him to run for president. Today, the Chavista regime has executed an alleged coup leader who has not killed anyone. If any further proof was required that Nicolás Maduro is a ruthless dictator, this is it,” said HRF President Thor Halvorssen. “The extrajudicial execution of Oscar Perez demonstrates the Maduro regime’s complete lack of honor and mercy. Perez took up arms against Venezuela’s dictatorship, and although this is a choice that HRF categorically rejects, there is no doubt he deserved due process and respect for his fundamental rights.”
Oscar Perez was a thorn in the side of the regime after he stole a police helicopter and dropped grenades on the roof of the Venezuelan Supreme Court building in downtown Caracas. Perez claimed responsibility for the attack and had been in hiding ever since, with occasional television and social media appearances. In December, Perez posted a video on YouTube showing masked men stealing weaponry from military barracks and smashing photos of Hugo Chávez and current president Nicolás Maduro.
On Monday, January 15, Perez posted a series of videos to Instagram showing himself and unnamed companions hiding from gunfire under apparent siege by Venezuelan security forces. In several of the videos, including a few where he’s visibly bleeding from what appeared to be a grenade shrapnel wound on his forehead, Perez stated that security forces “are attacking us,” they “told us they are going to murder us,” and that “they don’t accept our offer to surrender.” Senior government officials reacted with apparent glee to Perez’s videos, with Prisons Minister Iris Varela tweeting, “What a crying coward, now that he’s caught like a rat.” Diosdado Cabello, the regime’s number two, posted three tweets referring to Perez as a terrorist. At around noon, the government issued an official communication stating that the “members of this terrorist cell were ‘taken out’ and five of them were arrested.” The communication did not mention Perez by name nor clarified whether he had been killed.
“All available evidence strongly suggests that Perez was killed by security forces in cold blood, after his offer to surrender was rejected,” said HRF Chief Legal Officer Javier El-Hage. “Under international law, this amounts to an extrajudicial execution, which is an egregious crime. Security forces must always honor an armed suspect’s right to life when the suspect is clearly surrendering, and this is true both in situations of armed conflict or in domestic law enforcement. Moreover, the killing of this man has been carried out by a dictatorial regime who has systematically killed over 200 nonviolent students over the last few years and is being investigated by the Organization of American States for crimes against humanity.”
The Human Rights Foundation (HRF) is a nonpartisan nonprofit organization that promotes and protects human rights globally, with a focus on closed societies.
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