Top UN human rights official calls for more safety after political opponent killing in Venezuela

The United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein, today called on Venezuelan authorities to ensure that political opponents, human rights defenders and others facing threats in relation to their work are adequately protected.

“As I reminded President [Nicolás] Maduro during his recent visit to the Human Rights Council in Geneva, a sovereign State must defend and protect individuals who criticize and question the policies and practices of the State,” the UN’s top human rights official said two days after the assassination of opposition leader Luis Diaz and days before elections scheduled early next month.

“Democracy suffers greatly when the pre-election environment is marred by violence, threats and intimidation,” Mr. Zied said.

Mr. Diaz was shot and killed at a political rally on Wednesday while was sharing the stage with the campaigner and activist Lilian Tintori, who is married to jailed opposition leader Leopoldo Lopez.

“I urge the authorities to ensure that the investigation into Luis Diaz’s murder is independent and impartial and brings to justice the perpetrators, as well as the masterminds behind the assassination,” Mr. Zeid said.

“All sides must refrain from violence and violent rhetoric in the run up to the elections,” he said.

The Office for the High Commissioner for Human Rights said in a news release it is not clear whether or not Ms. Tintori was also a target, but she has allegedly been the subject of other attacks and threats.

The UN Human Rights Committee, which has recently reviewed Venezuela’s compliance with the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, has also expressed concerns about intimidation, threats and attacks against journalists, human rights defenders and lawyers.

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