/PRNewswire / -- Today at the inauguration of the Fifth Summit of the Americas hosted by Trinidad and Tobago, Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez was confronted by a full-page announcement published in the national newspaper Trinidad Express signed by nine prominent human rights groups, calling upon all Summit delegates to directly confront Mr. Chavez on numerous human rights violations.
The announcement states that President Chavez has manipulated the criminal justice system to bring politically motivated charges against 45 different individuals, violating their basic human rights as guaranteed by local and international law. These violations include character assassination, fabricating criminal charges and evidence, torturing and bribing witnesses, breaching privacy and confidentiality, interfering with and controlling judges, and groundless pre-trial incarceration and denial of bail, the announcement states.
"We have all signed this statement to raise awareness among other Latin American nations of the reality of judicial persecution in Venezuela," said Gonzalo Himiob Santome, co-director of the civil rights NGO Foro Penal Venezolano. "Foreign governments at this summit can help these victims by conditioning their talks with the Venezuelan delegation upon the restoration of basic human rights and rule of law."
The announcement published in the Trinidad Express cites several cases of political prisoners and politically persecuted individuals who have been targeted by state-controlled courts, including Ivan Simonovis, Lazaro Forero, and Henry Vivas (the three police commissioners who were just sentenced to 30 years in prison); Francisco Uson (a retired general who was jailed over an empty conviction); Eligio Cedeno (a businessman jailed without conviction for consorting with the opposition); Nixon Moreno (a student movement leader persecuted on trumped up charges, forced to flee the country to asylum); and several others.
"What is happening in Venezuela today under President Hugo Chavez is an outrageous travesty of justice and human rights, which goes on unrecognized underneath the rhetoric of revolution," said Canadian lawyer Robert Amsterdam, international defense counsel for political prisoner Eligio Cedeno. "There is no excuse or plausible defense for how Chavez is treating his own citizens, and no supporter, no matter how loyal or ardent, can come forward to explain why these individuals have been jailed and deprived of their rights. When a president breaks the law, violates the constitution, and openly behaves like a criminal, the international community has a duty to act in response."
The full-page announcement, addressed to all delegates attending the Fifth Summit of the Americas, was signed by Foro Penal Venezolano; Fundacion para el Debido Proceso (www.fundepro.com.ve); Nueva Conciencia Nacional Fundacion Justicia Libre (www.fundacionjusticialibre.com) Compromiso Ciudadano a.c. Control Ciudadano para la Seguridad, la Defensa y la Fuerza Armada Nacional (www.controlciudadano.org); Venezuela Awareness Foundation (www.venezuelaawareness.com); Movimiento 2D (www.movimiento2d.org); Fundacion Damas de Blanco, Fundacion Justicia and Victimas Venezolanas de Violencia de Estado (VIVE).