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Friday, July 18, 2008

Human Rights Foundation Launches “Tell Chávez” Campaign for Venezuela’s Political Prisoners

Human Rights Foundation Launches “Tell Chávez” Campaign for Venezuela’s Political Prisoners

NEW YORK (July 18, 2008) -- Raúl Díaz is an engineering student who spent four years in prison awaiting trial on false charges. Humberto Quintero is a lieutenant jailed for capturing a high-profile FARC guerilla leader. Iván Simonovis is an imprisoned police commissioner denied urgent medical care despite several court orders authorizing hospital visits. They are political prisoners of the Venezuelan government.

The Human Rights Foundation (HRF) launches its “Tell Chávez” campaign today—www.TellChavez.com—to raise global awareness of the existence and suffering of political prisoners in Venezuela. Despite an amnesty law signed by President Hugo Chávez in December of 2007, that purportedly ensured that no Venezuelan would be imprisoned for political reasons, Venezuelans are continually subjected to political persecution, imprisonment, torture and other cruel and degrading treatment for disagreeing with or opposing the government. Many of these prisoners are being held in inhumane conditions without access to medical care. Outside of Venezuela’s prisons, “political inhabilitation” has been used by the government to disqualify 400 potential candidates for office, among them, those who appear to be favorites in the upcoming November elections.

The “Tell Chávez” site includes information about the cases of Francisco Usón, Otto Gebauer, Humberto Quintero, Iván Simonovis, Lázaro Forero, Henry Vivas, and Raúl Díaz—all of whom were imprisoned by the Venezuelan government on trumped-up charges in cases with manifest due process violations.

The campaign website provides information about each case with the aim of increasing public awareness about political persecution in Venezuela. Further, the website also includes a short video and invites the public to send email letters, addressed to President Chávez, to representatives of the Venezuelan government demanding the immediate release of political prisoners, respect for human rights treaties, and an end to political persecution.

HRF is an international nonpartisan organization devoted to defending human rights in the Americas. It centers its work on the twin concepts of freedom of self-determination and freedom from tyranny. These ideals include the belief that all human beings have the rights to speak freely, to associate with those of like mind, and to leave and enter their countries. Individuals in a free society must be accorded equal treatment and due process under law, and must have the opportunity to participate in the governments of their countries; HRF’s ideals likewise find expression in the conviction that all human beings have the right to be free from arbitrary detainment or exile and from interference and coercion in matters of conscience. HRF’s International Council includes former prisoners of conscience Vladimir Bukovsky, Palden Gyatso, Armando Valladares, Ramón J. Velásquez, Elie Wiesel, and Harry Wu.

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