Case History: Marianela Sanchez Ortiz
On 13 April 2013 Marianela Sanchéz Ortiz's mother-in-law received an anonymous letter in which the senders inform the human rights defender that they have many photos of her and her family and that they know “todo los pasos que sigues” (every step you take).
Marianela Sánchez Ortiz is a human rights defender and the Legal Coordinator for the Observatorio Venezolano de Prisiones (OVP - Venezuelan Prisons Observatory), which documents violations against prison detainees in Venezuela. She faces threats and harassment as a result of her work.
On 13 April 2013, human rights defender, Ms Marianela Sanchéz Ortiz, and her family were subject of renewed threats when her mother-in-law received a threatening letter. Marianela Sanchéz Ortiz's mother-in-law received an anonymous letter in which the senders inform the human rights defender that they have many photos of her and her family and that they know “todo los pasos que sigues” (every step you take). The anonymous senders also recall two specific incidents in which they have observed the human rights defender and her family. They lastly write that no protection measures will not stop anyone, and that when they want “vamos por ti y lo que mas te duele tu familia” (we will go for you and what will hurt you most, your family).
These death threats come against a background of ongoing threats against the OVP. On 9 April 2013, Front Line Defenders issued an urgent appeal on behalf of Mr Humberto Prado Sifontes, who has been subject to a campaign of defamation by public officials because of his work with the same organisation. Front Line Defenders also issued an appeal on behalf of Marianela Sanchéz Ortiz when her husband, Mr Hérnan Antonio Bolívar, was threatened by four armed men on 30 May 2012. On this occasion, the unknown men told Hérnan Antonio Bolívar that they knew where his children studied, where his family lived and what they did at the weekends. The husband of the human rights defender was told that if his wife did not stop her work denouncing prison conditions in Venezuela, they would pay with their family. Marianela Sanchéz Ortiz was herself intimidated by four unknown men on 22 June 2012.
Front Line Defenders believes that the continuing threats against Marianela Sanchéz Ortiz and her family are directly related to her human rights work with OVP in defence of prisoners' rights in Venezuela. Front Line Defenders is deeply concerned about the physical and psychological integrity of Marianela Sanchéz Ortiz, her family and that of Humberto Prado Sifontes and other members of the OVP.
On 22 June 2012, Ms Marianela Sánchez Ortiz was threatened by four unknown individuals as she was entering the building of her workplace in Caracas. At approximately 12.35pm, Marianela Sánchez Ortiz was walking from the Judicial Circuit Criminal Court of Caracas towards the building where the headquarers of the OVP is located when she noticed four unknown men. Two of them were walking from the direction of the Court and the other two were standing in front of the OVP building. One of the men stood in front of Marianela Sánchez Ortiz and prevented her from entering the building, while she heard the other man say “Esa es” (that's her). She managed to enter the building and inform colleagues of what had happened. The two men were later witnessed by a colleague of Marianela Sánchez Ortiz changing shirts with one another, in an apparent attempt not to be recognised.
Front Line Defenders expresses concern at this act of threat and intimidation against Marianela Sánchez Ortiz, and believes it to be directly related to her legitimate and peaceful human rights work with the Observatorio Venezolano de Prisiones in defending prison detainees' rights.
On 30 May 2012 armed attackers threatened and robbed Mr Hérnan Antonio Bolívar, husband of Ms Marianela Sánchez Ortiz, Legal Coordinator in the Observatorio Venezolano de Prisiones.
The Observatorio Venezolano de Prisiones – OVP (Venezuelan Prisons Observatory) documents violations against prison detainees in Venezuela, and promotes their rights. Front Line Defenders previously issued appeals (on 23 June 2011, 25 November 2010, 11 June 2010) in relation to the defamation of Mr Humberto Prado Sifontes, Director of the OVP, following statements by public officials, including the President, and accusations of instigating violence within the prison system in Venezuela.
On 30 May 2012, between 11:00 and 11:30 pm, as Hérnan Antonio Bolívar went to enter his car on Terrazas del Ávila, he was approached by four armed men. One man pointed a gun at him and told him to remain calm and enter the vehicle. Two of the men sat into the car, and the other two stood in front of it. The man in the passenger seat threatened Hérnan Antonio Bolívar, telling him to speak to his wife Marianela Sánchez Ortiz and warn her to stop filing complaints and making up things about the Government, in particular about problems within the prisons.
They added they knew where his children studied, where they lived, where he and his wife worked and what they did at the weekends. Furthermore they stated that if his wife continued with this work they would pay with their family. The armed attackers then stole Hérnan Antonio Bolívar's Ipad, 3,800 Venezuelan Bolívars (approximately €700), a cheque book, a watch and some other personal items.
As the attackers left they told Hérnan Antonio Bolívar that they hoped he had understood the message and that on this occasion it was just a warning, but on the next occasion there would be no speaking.
On 20 May 2012 a journalist informed Humberto Prado Sifontes that he had received a phone call in which the speaker said “Hola de fuentes fidedignas te informo que el Ministerio del Servicio Penitenciario le estan montando una emboscada a Humberto Prado y otros para responsabilizarlo de lo que esta ocurriendo en La Planta, los estan siguiendo, les estan grabando las llamadas, saben con quienes se reunen” (Hello from a reliable source, just to let you know that the Ministry for the Penitenciary Services is going to mount an ambush on Humberto Prado, and others, to hold him responsible for what is happening in La Planta [prison], we are following them, we are recording their calls, we know with whom they meet).
Front Line Defenders believes that the attack on Hérnan Antonio Bolívar and the death threats against Marianela Sánchez Ortiz and their family, as well as the threats against Humberto Prado Sifontes, are directly related to the work of the OVP in defence of prisoners' rights in Venezuela. Front Line Defenders is concerned for the physical and psychological integrity of Marianela Sánchez Ortiz, Hérnan Antonio Bolívar and their family, Humberto Prado Sifontes, and other human rights defenders working to promote and protect human rights in Venezuela.