Amnesty International (AI) said the deaths of at least 14 men in early January were “probable extrajudicial executions” carried out during a raid by Nicolás Maduro regime law enforcement not far from the Miraflores Presidential palace.
Some 23 individuals were killed by gunshots during the La Vega confrontation, according to a tally kept by El Pitazo.
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On Thursday, AI asked the International Criminal Court (which has two investigations on extrajudicial executions open against the Maduro regime) to investigate the 14 killings, which took place in La Vega, Western Caracas, from January 6 to January 9 in an operation that lasted some 72 hours.
Testimony gathered by El Pitazo in early January in the area of the shootings told of close-range wounds, victims shot in the back while fleeing, victims with jobs and without eminent criminal affiliations, and other worrying developments. Police did not report finding any weapons on victims, and some got shot outside the confrontation area.
AI explains that human rights organizations and residents from La Vega denied that the deaths were during a confrontation, but rather “extrajudicial executions” for the most part.
The National Police special forces, FAES, the controversial police corps the United Nations recommended its disbanded in 2019, was one of the agencies that took part in the La Vega actions, AI reiterated.
In a statement, AI quote from its newly published investigation Venezuela: Impunity in the face of a lethal policy for social control, which gathered evidence verified by its Crisis Evidence Laboratory.
“While neighbors denounced the police presence since January 6, two days later, 650 Venezuelan security forces officers were deployed in the parish of La Vega, in the southwest of Caracas, for an alleged confrontation between armed gangs and the police,” explains the human rights organization.
FAES and other corps of the Bolivarian National Police that were deployed have been “questioned in the past for the systematic extrajudicial executions of young men (living) in poverty,” AI stated.
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“At least 14 people died during the operation,” two of them reportedly 17-year-old adolescents, according to the statement, in which they conclude that there are “compelling reasons” to believe that these deaths were “probable extrajudicial executions.”
Despite repeated complaints, pleas, and investigations by the opposition-held National Assembly legislative, the United Nations, the Organization of American States, and even the ICC, these crimes continue with “systematic impunity,” said Erika Guevara Rosas, Amnesty International’s Americas director.
Verified videos of police activity: AI
Amnesty International says it verified nine videos filmed between January 8 and 9 that show police activity in La Vega.
In one of them, recorded near 1st de Mayo Street, a gunshot can be heard, and a police officer crouches down. And 30 seconds later, the same officer pointed his gun while hiding where other police officers are waiting. The symbol of the Bolivarian National Police (PNB) is visible on the uniforms.
The organization indicates that it obtained access to images allegedly belonging to 14 of the deceased.
“An independent external forensic pathologist verified the details of the injuries and confirmed that seven bodies had gunshot wounds to the heart and two other bodies had a single gunshot wound immediately over the heart. Two bodies had a single gunshot wound to the head.”
The evidence makes “even less credible the official version that these deaths occurred in a crossfire confrontation,” according to Guevara.
“The alleged extrajudicial executions we have investigated in La Vega could constitute crimes against humanity, involving authorities at the highest level, including Nicolás Maduro,” she added.
Information by EFE and Carlos Camacho.