On March 5, 2018, Venezuelan authorities reportedly detained two student leaders from the University of Los Andes, following comments they made regarding a public transport strike, which had recently begun in the city of Mérida.
The student leaders, Johan Lobo and Michael Labrador, were interviewed on March 5, 2018 on Televisora Andina de Mérida (TAM), a local television channel. During the interview, they reportedly demanded Venezuelan authorities bring a solution to the public transport strike, claiming that the strike had inhibited students’ ability to attend classes at the university. In addition, they invited participants to a gathering, planned for March 7 and organized by members of the ULA community, to protest hunger and poverty in the country. Minutes after they left the TAM’s studio, Mr. Lobo and Mr. Labrador were reportedly arrested by the Bolivarian National Intelligence Service (SEBIN). They have reportedly had no access to their relatives and lawyers since their arrest.
Scholars at Risk is concerned about the arrest and detention of students, in apparent retaliation for their peaceful exercise of the right of freedom of expression, 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. State authorities have a responsibility to protect the rights of freedom of expression and due process. In addition to the harm to the immediate victims, such incidents have a chilling effect on academic freedom, and democratic society generally.
UPDATE: On June 11, 2018, authorities released Mssrs. Lobo and Labrador.
#Alerta Estudiantes de Derecho @ULA_Venezuela Johan Lobo y Michael Labrador fueron detenidos en la tarde de ayer #5Mar por el SEBIN. No han tenido acceso a familiares ni abogados. Exigimos a las autoridades resguardar su integridad #DDMerida #6Mar
— ObservatorioULA.DDHH (@Uladdhh) March 6, 2018
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