Freedom for Vannesa Rosales now!

This manifesto promoted by feminist organizations from Merida, Venezuela, has been signed by more than 200 Latin American organizations. Venezuelanvoices.org has also signed and translated the manifesto to help in the outreach efforts. The original text in Spanish and its 8 pages of signatures can be read here. You may also read about this case at Frontline Defenders.

We demand a fair process adjusted to law for Vannesa Rosales: Sexual Rights and Reproductive Rights Defender criminalized in Venezuela

8 January 2021

Last October 12, 2020, Vannesa Rosales, a prominent human rights defender from Merida city, Venezuela, was detained. She is accused of providing information and medicines for the voluntary interruption of the pregnancy of a 13-years old teenager, who got pregnant as a result of rape. The defender was accused on three charges: unlawful assembly, association to commit a crime and abortion induced by a third party, exposing her to high penalties. Vannesa remains imprisoned.

In this penal process, important judicial guarantees provided in the national legislation and in international treaties have been unfulfilled, such as: the audience for in flagrante delicto 4 days after her detention, surpassing the 36 hours established by law, based on a deferral required by the Public Ministry, 48 hours after her apprehension; lack of access to the formal accusation made by the Public Ministry and to Vannesa’s file by her defenders, who have only been able to meet her once.

Also, Vannesa has not been able to have a private meeting with her legal defense team. A request for a substitute precautionary measure in lieu of deprivation of liberty has not been resolved yet, nor has a formal response been received to a constitutional protection request filed last December 22. Finally, on December 17, 2020 the courts initiated their December break, three (3) days before the maximum period to extend the realization of a preliminary audience expired.  

The judicial authorities are violating due process and Vannesa’s right to defense, and with their actions they also breach the Fundamental Law on the Right of Women to a Life Free of Violence and the Inter-American Convention on the Prevention, Punishment, and Eradication of Violence against Women, “Belém do Pará”, because they are subjecting her to institutional and psychological violence for defending human rights.

The defender has been a member of several women’s organizations, she is a school teacher and has devoted her life to protect girls, teenagers and women in situations of exclusion and vulnerability, as well as to the development and academic research in favor of these groups.

The accusation against Vannesa occurs in a country where girls and teenagers are exposed to diverse forms of sexual violence, including rape, ending many times in forced pregnancies. It is important to mention that the teenager assisted by Vannesa finds herself in social precarious conditions and that a pregnancy at her age poses a severe risk for her health and life.

While in many countries rape is a circumstance in which girls, teenagers and women can access voluntary interruption of their pregnancy, Venezuela criminalizes human rights defenders such as Vannesa, for providing a health service that should be provided by the State.

It should be noted that even though the rapist has an arrest warrant, he is still free.

From 100% Estrogeno and all the organisations signing this document, we call on Venezuelan authorities to guarantee the due penal process and Vannesa’s right to defense, especially considering her work defending women’s human rights. In this sense, we demand the scheduling of her preliminary audience to happen as soon as possible.

Finally, we demand a review of the criminal law, in order to increase the flexibility of the norm that criminalizes abortion, as it has been recommended to the Venezuelan state by several human rights bodies and for it to stop the persecution against women who access this health service.

We ask international organizations to intercede with their good offices so that Venezuela respects and guarantees the rights of Vannesa Rosales, especially her right to life, personal integrity and access to justice. Today more than ever, the song written by the colleagues of the Chilean collective Las Tesis takes on its full meaning: “the oppressive state is a rapist macho”.

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