On August 19, 2017, Rolman Rojas, a professor at the University of Carabobo, was charged with weapons possession and resistance to the state authority and detained by the police of the state of Aragua in Venezuela. While in prison, his health has deteriorated and he has reportedly been refused medical treatment by the government of the province of Aragua.
The Division of Investigations and Preventive Strategies of the Aragua State Police detained Professor Rojas after he attended a political meeting of his party, Voluntad Popular, on the evening of August 19, 2017. According to his wife and defense lawyer, he was detained without a warrant. Mr. Rojas was accused of arms possession and resistance to authority, although as of this report, the evidentiary basis for the charges is unclear. At the time of his arrest, Professor Rojas served on the Faculty of Economic and Social Sciences, as president of Centro de Estudiantes de Administración (the Administration Student Center), and as president of Federación de Centros del núcleo Aragua (the Federation of Centers of the Aragua branch) of the University of Carabobo. Professor Rojas’s arrest coincided with the arrest of four other members of the University of Carabobo community: Julio García, president of the National College of Nursing; Rosmary Di Pietro, president of the Association of Public Accountants; Carlos Morales, professor at the university’s school of engineering and Simón Mora, husband of the dean of the university’s faculty of dentistry.
Since he was taken into custody and detained at the 26 de Julio prison in Guarico, Professor Rojas’s health has reportedly deteriorated. Sources indicate that he is suffering from diabetes, hypertension and glaucoma in both eyes, and has lost around 26 kilograms, due to the shortage of food that the country is experiencing. His family has submitted a doctors’ report testifying to his poor health. The Rector of Studies at the University of Carabobo, along with members of Professor Rojas’s family, have requested that he be placed under house arrest, to allow him to get necessary medical treatment As of this report, his case remains pending.
Scholars at Risk is concerned about the arrest and detention of a scholar, in apparent retaliation for his peaceful exercise of the rights to freedom of expression and association, conduct which is expressly protected under international human rights instruments including the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, to which Venezuela is a party. States have a responsibility not to interfere with the rights of freedom of expression and association as long as they are exercised responsibly. Further, states are obligated to take reasonable measures to ensure the health and safety of prisoners while they are detained.