AI INDEX: AMR 53/002/2001     30 March 2001  

PUBLIC AI Index: AMR 53/002/2001

30 March 2001

Further information on UA 03/01 (AMR 53/01/2001, 4 January 2001) - Fear for safety/ Ill-treatment / Death threats (new concern)

VENEZUELA Pemón indigenous people in San Rafael de Kamoiran

Silvano CASTRO

Silvano Castro, the head (cacique) of an indigenous community who has previously been harassed, has been beaten by soldiers and has received death threats.

On 22 March, the indigenous Pemón people staged a non-violent protests, blocking the highway. The army reacted by attacking them with tear-gas and gun-pellets. Silvano Castro, who was trying to film the attack, and another protester were severely beaten. The other protestor received serious facial injuries. As Silvano Castro tried to take the injured protester for treatment, two military and two civilian trucks blocked his way. The soldiers ordered Silvano Castro to get out of the car, and threatened to kill him, if he refused. They repeated the threat when he asked them whether they had a warrant for his arrest.

The military detained Silvano Castro and seven other people. They were all interrogated by the military authorities in Ciudad Bolivar. However, they refused to cooperate on the grounds, that they are only accountable to the civilian system of justice, not the military. They were all released on 24 March, following an order from the office of the Attorney General (Fiscalía) in Caracas, the capital.

This latest incident is only one in a pattern of harassment that against the Pemón indigenous people, which began after they started protesting against the construction of an electricity supply network in Venezuela's Gran Sabana region. Members of the Pemón community have said that the continuing harassment by the army ''takes place on our own territory and affects our daily life, our culture and our safety'' (''occurre en nuestro propio territorio y afecta nuestra vida cotidiana, nuestra cultura y nuestra seguridad''). Amnesty International is concerned that the harassment is continuing, in violation of the Venezuelan Constitution, includes provisions for the protection of indigenous people and their environment.

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