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Judicial harassment against woman rights defender Vannesa Rosales

Status: 
Judicial Harassment
About the situation

12 April 2021 marked six months since woman human rights defender Vannesa Rosales was first detained and criminal proceedings were initiated against her. The judicial process has been marred by irregularities and violations of due process guarantees, including an extensive delay in scheduling the first hearing for her case. Vannesa Rosales was placed under house arrest in January 2021, and has since been waiting for the hearing that will determine her legal status to take place.

On 22 December 2020 the lawyers of woman human rights defender Vannesa Rosales filed a constitutional appeal before the Court of Appeals of Merida. In the appeal her lawyers requested that the authorities comply with the rights and constitutional guarantees of the defender, in particular that she be allowed to be free pending any legal process against her, and that she face charges only based on her actions, not on her advocacy for women’s rights.

About Vannesa Rosales

Vannesa Rosales is a feminist, women’s rights defender, teacher and social worker in the Pueblo Nuevo community. Vannesa Rosales has lived and worked in Pueblo Nuevo for over eight years. She has been involved in multiple projects which have greatly benefited the local community, for example, she is part of the team that founded the Open Studies of Politecnica Territorial University (UPTM), a programme focused on nursing, integral health, accounting in community management, the prevention of crime, and criminology. Vannesa Rosales has also a member of a local initiative which supports women in their defense of sexual and reproductive rights, with an emphasis placed on advocating for the decriminalisation of abortion.
 

14 April 2021
Ongoing criminalisation of woman human rights defender Vannesa Rosales

12 April 2021 marked six months since woman human rights defender Vannesa Rosales was first detained and criminal proceedings were initiated against her. The judicial process has been marred by irregularities and violations of due process guarantees, including an extensive delay in scheduling the first hearing for her case. Vannesa Rosales was placed under house arrest in January 2021, and has since been waiting for the hearing that will determine her legal status to take place.

Vannesa Rosales is a feminist, women’s rights defender, teacher and social worker in the Pueblo Nuevo community. She supports women in their defence of sexual and reproductive rights, with an emphasis on advocating for the decriminalization of abortion in the country. The legislation on the termination of pregnancy has not changed since 1873, and prohibits abortion even in cases of rape, placing Venezuela in the top 25% of countries in the world with the most restrictive legislation on the right to abortion and other sexual and reproductive rights for women.

On 12 October 2020, the woman human rights defender was detained by several officials from the Venezuelan Corp for Scientific, Penal and Criminal Investigations (CICPC) and held at the CICPC detention centre in Merida. The process was initiated following Vanessa Rosales’ assistance to a 13-year-old girl who had been repeatedly raped by a neighbour. The assigned judge charged Vannesa Rosales with “forcing a third party to abort” and “association to commit a crime”, seemingly in response to her work on the decriminalisation of abortion.

On 11 January 2021, the Third Criminal Court of Control of the Criminal Judicial Circuit of the State of Mérida granted the request of Vanessa Rosales’ lawyer for alternative precautionary measures, and so the woman human rights defender was transferred to house arrest. The preliminary hearing of her case, which will determine the formal charges against her and her legal status, is still pending. This delay exceeds the 15-day period established under Venezuelan law, during which the preliminary hearing in a case must take place. The woman human rights defender’s lawyers also report that since February, they have been denied access to the investigation files for her case.

In February 2021, three UN experts, including the Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights defenders, expressed their deep concern regarding a number of attempts to criminalise human rights defenders and civil society organizations in Venezuela. The experts highlighted the criminalization process against woman human rights defender Vannesa Rosales in particular, and reminded the authorities in Venezuela of its obligations under international law to protect the rights of women and girls.

Front Line Defenders reiterates its deep concern in relation to the charges against Vannesa Rosales, as well as at the irregularities that have marked the judicial process so far. Front Line Defenders believes that the woman human rights defender is facing judicial prosecution in retaliation for her peaceful and legitimate work in defence of women's sexual and reproductive rights in Venezuela.

23 December 2020
Judicial harassment against woman rights defender Vannesa Rosales

On 22 December 2020 the lawyers of woman human rights defender Vannesa Rosales filed a constitutional appeal before the Court of Appeals of Merida. In the appeal her lawyers requested that the authorities comply with the rights and constitutional guarantees of the defender, in particular that she be allowed to be free pending any legal process against her, and that she face charges only based on her actions, not on her advocacy for women’s rights.

Download the Urgent Appeal

Vannesa Rosales is a feminist, women’s rights defender, teacher and social worker in the Pueblo Nuevo community. Vannesa Rosales has lived and worked in Pueblo Nuevo for over eight years. She has been involved in multiple projects which have greatly benefited the local community, for example, she is part of the team that founded the Open Studies of Politecnica Territorial University (UPTM), a programme focused on nursing, integral health, accounting in community management, the prevention of crime, and criminology. Vannesa Rosales has also a member of a local initiative which supports women in their defense of sexual and reproductive rights, with an emphasis placed on advocating for the decriminalisation of abortion.

On 9 December Vannesa Rosales’s lawyers, whom to date have been denied access to the investigation files, requested that she be released under precautionary measures instead of being held in prison on remand. On 22 December 2020, the lawyers of the woman human rights defender filed a constitutional appeal before the Merida Court of Appeals, to request compliance with constitutional rights and guarantees of the defender.

This constitutional appeal comes after her preliminary hearing, which was scheduled for 14 December, was postponed and not rescheduled, thus exceeding the term established under the law to conduct the preliminary hearing within 15 days of the accusation which was made against Vannesa Rosales in October.

On 12 October 2020, several officials from the Venezuelan Corp for Scientific, Penal and Criminal Investigations (CICPC) raided Vannesa Rosales’s house. The woman human rights defender was subsequently detained at the CICPC detention centre in Merida as a result of her providing assistance a 13-year-old adolescent who had been repeatedly raped by a neighbour. Since her detention Vannesa Rosales remains incommunicado in an isolated area.

Despite many recommendations made by human rights bodies such as UN-Women and UNICEF to the government of Venezuela to adapt laws according to international human rights law, Venezuela is still part of the 25% of the countries in the world that have not decriminalised or softened legislation on the right to abortion and other sexual and reproductive women’ rights.

On 16 October 2020, the Flagrante Delicto hearing for Vanessa Rosales was held during which the Prosecutor's Office expressed its intention to pursue the lesser of the crimes established in the Venezuelan penal code with respect to abortion, a charge carrying a potential penalty of less than four years in prison. Such a charge would have enabled Vanessa Rosales to be released from detention during the legal process.

However, the assigned judge re-qualified the prosecution's request, seemingly based on Vannesa Rosales's work on the decriminalisation of abortion, and charged the woman rights defender with “forcing a third party to abort” and “association to commit a crime”, more serious charges with a penalty in excess of four years that require defendants to be held in prison on remand during the legal process. It should be noted that the Flagrante Delicto hearing took place five days after the arrest, which violates the 36-hour period established in the Venezuelan Organic Code of Criminal Procedure.

Front Line Defenders is seriously concerned about the use of fabricated charges against Vannesa Rosales as a result of her peaceful and legitimate work in the defence of women's sexual and reproductive rights in Venezuela.