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25 May 2015

Government illegally intercepts NGO communications

On 27 May 2015, representatives of Venezuelan human rights organisations Provea and Espacio Público filed a complaint with the Public Prosecutor denouncing the illegal interception of their communications by the Venezuelan government.

Programa Venezolano de Educacion y Proteccion de los Derechos Humanos (the the Venezuelan Programme for Education and Action on Human Rights (Provea) was formed in 1998 to work for the promotion and protection of economic, social and cultural rights in Venezuela. Espacio Público, is a non-governmental organisation working for the promotion and defence of human rights, in particular freedom of expression and the right to information.

The complaint was filed by the Coordinator of Provea, Mr Rafael Uzcátegui, and Mr Carlos Correa, Director of Espacio Público, following statements made by Mr Diosdado Cabello, President of the Venezuelan National Assembly, on his national television programme. The statements, broadcast on 13 May 2015, recounted explicit details of trips planned by the organisations in April 2015 to meet other Latin American human rights organisations in Chile and Peru. Although information of travel itineraries and scheduled meetings with non-governmental organisations may have been publicly accessible, a planned meeting of representatives of Provea and Espacio Público with Mr Marino Alvarado, a member of the Venezuelan Observatory of Social Conflict who currently resides in Brazil, could only have been discovered through illegal surveillance. The organisations had only been in contact with Marino Alvarado electronically, indicating the monitoring of their online correspondences.

Provea and Espacio Público have been among many civil society organisations who have faced governmental harassment through state controlled means of communication, in particular Diosdado Cabello's weekly television show, 'Con el Mazo Dando'. The attempted criminalisation and discrediting of their work has been augmented by harassment of individual members of the organisations. On 22 March 2015, Rafael Uzcátegui was followed upon arrival at Simón Bolivar International Airport in Maiquetía.

The human rights organisations have based their complaint on Article 48 of the Venezuelan Constitution, which guarantees the inviolability of all forms of private communications, and prohibits its violation except by court order in due process of law.

Front Line Defenders expresses serious concern at the illegal interception of private communications of Provea and Espacio Público, and believes the breach of their rights to privacy to be a direct attempt to restrict their legitimate work in the defence of human rights.