López case concerns U.N. rights official

The U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights, Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein, expressed serious concern Monday at the continued detention of Venezuelan opposition leader Leopoldo López, as well as more than 69 other people who were arrested in the context of public protests that took place across Venezuela over several months starting in February this year.

“The prolonged and arbitrary detention of political opponents and protestors in Venezuela is causing more and more concern internationally,” Zeid said. “It is only exacerbating the tensions in the country.”

According to information received by the U.N. Human Rights Office, over 3,300 people, including minors, were detained for brief periods between February and June, and more than 150 cases of ill-treatment, many of them torture, were reported. At least 43 people were killed during the protests, including one public prosecutor and nine members of the security forces. Journalists and human rights defenders have also reported threats, attacks and intimidation.

Last month, the Working Group on arbitrary detention stated its opinion that the detention of Leopoldo López, as well as that of former mayor of San Cristobal Daniel Ceballos, was arbitrary.

The high commissioner met Leopoldo López’s wife, Lilian Tintori, in Geneva, Switzerland, Friday, and discussed the situation of all the detainees and their families. He said he deplored the continued reports of threats and intimidation directed at people working to defend human rights in Venezuela, and urged that they be allowed to pursue their work and speak up without fear for their safety. “My office is extremely concerned about the current situation, and we will continue to monitor it very closely,” he added.

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