Inter-American Court Orders Venezuela to Investigate Immediately the Massacre of El Amparo

Fishermen Executed in 1988 by the Army


Washington D.C, February 19, 2010.

The Inter-American Court of Human Rights ordered Venezuela, on February 4th, to abide "soon and  completely” with a ruling issued in 1995 on the assassination of 14 fishermen that took place in 1988 in a military operation in the Arauca River, Apure State, known as the Massacre of El Amparo.

The decision means that Venezuela must do everything necessary to investigate the facts, identify and punish those responsible, for which it must submit to the Inter-American Court of Human Rights (IACHR) a timetable with information "timely, clear and comprehensive "no later than June 25th, 2010.

"The Court finds that the State has not complied with the terms of the sentence and also has not done his duty to transmit information clearly and specifically about it" considered the IACHR in its Resolution notified on February 16th.

For IACHR, in the case of the Massacre of El Amparo human rights violations "remain unpunished" 21 years after the events. "The fulfillment of reparation orders of this Court is not granted by the state towards victims. It is a right of those that must be met in a prompt and respectful way," highlights the resolution.

In 1995, Venezuela had already accepted to the ICHR its international responsibility for human rights violations of the 14 victims killed and two survivors.

The Center for Justice and International Law (CEJIL) and the Venezuelan Program of Education-Action in Human Rights (PROVEA), representing the victims, attended a closed hearing before the IACHR Court on January 29th in which representatives of the State of Venezuela admitted the unreasonable delay in investigating the slaughter.

"Undoubtedly this is a historic debt that the government of Venezuelan has and needs to settle," assured the Venezuelan representatives, cited in the resolution.

At the hearing on January 29th, Venezuela said that the perpetrators of the crime are fully identified and that the investigation "would not be difficult, because some of the tests were under the jurisdiction of military personnel.”

PROVEA and CEJIL urged Venezuela to honor its international commitments and invited this nation to enhance concrete planned and coordinated actions,
in order to advance with the investigation. A first step in this direction will be the delivery schedule requested by the Court to Venezuela.

According to the ruling of the IACHR, on January 18, 1995, the massacre occurred on October 29, 1988 when 16 fishermen from the village of El Amparo were on a boat on a fishing trip across the Arauca River. Venezuelan Army soldiers, who were on a military operation, fired the fishermen. The Army reported a confrontation with Colombian guerrilla members in which 14 insurgents were killed and two others had escaped.

The two survivor fishermen went the next day to the police. The Army attempted to capture them by force, but many civilians and police officers stood in front of the police station and prevented their arrest.


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The Center for Justice and International Law (CEJIL) is an advocacy of human rights in the Americas. CEJIL's main objective is to ensure full implementation of international human rights standards in the Member States of the Organization of American States (OAS), through the effective use of the Inter-american human rights system and other international protection mechanisms. CEJIL is a nongovernmental nonprofit with consultative status at the OAS, the Organization of the United Nations (UN) and observer status with the African Commission on Human Rights.