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Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders Annual Report 2003 - Venezuela

Publisher International Federation for Human Rights
Publication Date 14 April 2004
Cite as International Federation for Human Rights, Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders Annual Report 2003 - Venezuela, 14 April 2004, available at: [accessed 29 November 2015]
DisclaimerThis is not a UNHCR publication. UNHCR is not responsible for, nor does it necessarily endorse, its content. Any views expressed are solely those of the author or publisher and do not necessarily reflect those of UNHCR, the United Nations or its Member States.

Assassination of Mr. Joe Luis Castillo González142

On 27th August, Mr. Joe Luis Castillo González, a lawyer and former coordinator of the Office of Social Action of the Episcopal Vicariate in Machiques (Oficina de Acción Social de Vicariato Apostólico de Machiques), was murdered in the Tinaquillo housing scheme in Machiques, in Zulia State. Mr. Joe Luis Castillo González was driving home with his wife and 18-month-old son, when two individuals rode up on a motorcycle and fired 13 shots into their car. Mr. Castillo Gonzáles was killed and his wife and child were injured. Mr. Castillo Gonzáles had worked for more than five years with his wife, also a lawyer at the Office of Social Action of the Episcopal Vicariate in Machiques. The Office is part of the "Forum for Life" and runs activities for the promotion and defence of human rights, in particular those of indigenous peoples in the region and Colombian refugees. Mr. Castillo Gonzáles had also coordinated projects with the Office of the United Nations Higher Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) for Colombian refugees displaced from border departments to places such as Machiques, El Cruce and Río de Oro. Mr. Castillo González was planning to move shortly to Mérida State to take up a new position. On 28th August 2003, the Forum for Life asked the Public Prosecutor's Office to appoint a special prosecutor to investigate the murder.

COFAVIC members threatened143

From the beginning of April until May 2003, several threatening and insulting e-mails were sent to the office of the Committee of the Relatives of the Victims of 27th February 1989 (COFAVIC, Comité de Familiares de Víctimas del 27 de febrero 1989). The messages accuse members of COFAVIC, in particular the director, Mrs. Liliana Ortega, of treason, because of their work to document violations committed between 11th and 13th April 2002, during the attempted coup, and violations perpetrated in Falcón State. For example, on 21st and 22nd May 2003, several messages arrived from a group called "Analysis Unit, Cyanide Drops" attacking the COFAVIC's work and insulting its members.

In the second half of 2003, the members of COFAVIC continued to suffer harassment and receive threats in the form of telephone calls, intimidation, insults and information published in the national media. After the increase in these threats, COFAVIC had to close its premises three times in July, August and September for fear of direct attacks.

COFAVIC has spent 14 years documenting cases to solve crimes of political violence and murders committed by para-police groups in several states of Venezuela. Its members have been harassed and intimidated since 2001, through threatening e-mails, anonymous phone calls to the organisation and to the mobile phones of its members, personal attacks and defamation in the media that liken members of the association with putschists or instigators of an international campaign against the government.

In response to this situation, on 19th April 2002 the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights had called for the adoption of urgent measures to protect Ortega Mendoza, Yris Medina Cova, Hilda Páez, Maritza Romero, Aura Liscano, Alicia de González and Carmen Alicia Mendoza. On 14th October 2002, the Commission had extended the measures for six months because of threats made between May and September 2002. On 27th November 2002, the Inter-American Court of Human Rights had adopted provisional measures to protect the persons mentioned, and had asked the State to inform the petitioners about the measures adopted and to investigate the reported incidents to find and punish those responsible. On 21st February 2003, the court issued a new resolution declaring that the State had not applied these measures effectively and asking for their application. Mrs. Liliana Ortega received protection from the metropolitan police, but she considers it insufficient.

The threats were duly denounced, but at end-December 2003, no enquiry had been opened.

[Refworld note: This report as posted on the FIDH website ( was in pdf format with country chapters run together by region. Footnote numbers have been retained here, so do not necessarily begin at 1.]

142. See Urgent Appeal VEN 002/0903/OBS 043.

143. See Urgent Appeal VEN 001/0503/OBS 023.

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