Published On: Thu, Aug 3rd, 2017

Venezuela opposition leaders arrested

protestCARACAS - The top United Nations human rights official on Tuesday expressed deep concern about the detention of two opposition leaders by Venezuelan authorities after Sunday's elections for a Constituent Assembly convened by President Nicolás Maduro.

“I am deeply concerned that opposition leaders Leopoldo Lopez and Antonio Ledezma have again been taken into custody by Venezuelan authorities after their house arrest was revoked,” said UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra'ad Al Hussein in a statement issued by his office (OHCHR).

He urged the government immediately to release all those being held for exercising their rights to freedom of peaceful assembly, association and expression, noting that the UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention considers the detention of both Lopez and Ledezma to be arbitrary.

Maduro has declared victory in Sunday's elections for the new body, which could replace the current National Assembly.

Zeid also expressed his regret that at least ten people reportedly died over the weekend amid demonstrations over Sunday's polls, calling for a prompt, effective and independent probe into these deaths.

He urged the authorities “not to make an already extremely volatile situation even worse” through the use of excessive force, including through violent house raids that have occurred in various parts of the country.

“I appeal to all parties to refrain from the use of violence,” he said.

Canada also condemned imprisonment of Venezuelan opposition leaders.

“Canada is gravely alarmed by the unlawful detention of Venezuelan opposition leaders Antonio Ledezma and Leopoldo López, the latter with whom I spoke less than two weeks ago. Their detention is further proof of the regime’s dictatorial intentions,” Chrystia Freeland, minister of foreign affairs, said in a statement on Tuesday.

“We call for their immediate release, as well as the release of all political prisoners.

“The Maduro government’s campaign of repression is unacceptable. We urge the Venezuelan government to respect the autonomy and authority of the national assembly and other independent institutions. The national assembly is the only legitimately elected legislative body in Venezuela: it ‎must be respected and its full powers must be restored.

“Canada calls on the government to respect the democratic rights of Venezuelan citizens and enter into meaningful negotiations to restore constitutional order in Venezuela,” she added.

On July 8, 2017, the Venezuelan supreme court placed López under house arrest after he had spent three years in prison for his role in anti-government protests in 2014.

Ledezma was placed under house arrest in 2015 after being imprisoned on charges of leading an alleged coup against Maduro.

On July 30, Venezuelans were called to vote on the government’s internationally discredited proposal to establish a constituent assembly. Both López and Ledezma have invited Venezuelans to join protests against the antidemocratic creation of the constituent assembly and to defend their fundamental rights and freedoms.

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