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Amnesty International on Venezuela

By Aleksander Boyd

London (16.12.03) - Today I will continue with e-mail exchange, this time round between Mr Ignacio Saiz of Amnesty International and myself in my character of director of Pro Venezuela Organization. My response comes first followed by Mr Saiz message.

Dear Mr Saiz,

Many thanks for your response. With respect to the screening of the documentary "the revolution will not be televised" in AI's festival let me explain a few things. I spoke to Mr Don Wright the night prior to the decision of taking the film off the chart, our conversation lasted for at least 20 minutes during which Mr Wright made not one single comment about possible threats to the personal safety of AI staff in Venezuela. Indeed he expressed his surprise at the reaction of Venezuelans about the screening of the film -commenting on the small size of the theater as being and I quote from him "in the middle of nowhere"- to which I replied "it is not the size of the theater or where it is located what matters but rather that AI is presenting the film as a feature for those willing to understand the Venezuelan crisis".

Further, I reminded Mr Wright about the pending lawsuit in the Spanish Audience and the ICC against Hugo Chavez for crimes against humanity. Under no circumstances such grave accusations can be taken lightly much less by AI, that has characterized itself for being the uber defender of human rights victims worldwide. I also mentioned that Venezuelan groups are ready to take legal action against the producers of said film and the BBC for defamation, given the grotesque propagandistic nature of the film. It remains therefore my duty to remind you that excusing the resolution of not screening the film based on possible threats to AI personnel in Venezuela which has not being substantiated with evidence is futile and extremely inappropriate apart of being false. As I have said to Elena Gonzalez, if AI members in Venezuela have been threatened in any form and taking into consideration the character and policies of AI of not bending to whimsical, authoritarian or ruthless individuals, it is in your organization's best interest to denounce the issue promptly and clearly pointing out names, places, nature and victims of the threats, etc. Obscure stances based on premises provided by journalists of the Guardian will do AI's credibility more harm than good.

In regards to my visit to the International Secretariat with Mr Mohamed Merhi and the provision of evidence which proves beyond any reasonable doubt that the regime of Hugo Chavez is not intent whatsoever in bringing to justice those involved in the assassinations of that day, I can assure you that I am filled with utter discontent towards AI. Again excusing the lack of an appropriate response due to AI inability to devote more members of staff to the investigation and production of truthful information vis-a-vis Venezuela does your reputation no good. In clear terms I expressed to the Venezuelan team that I would be more than happy to collaborate with them in any issue related to human right abuses in Venezuela, offer that I have reiterated over time and even passed on to Ms Irene Khan. The criteria with which AI decides what cases are of importance and worthy of your time and what are not leaves me perplexed for I have personally sent enough evidence provided by Mr Merhi and others in relation to the grave abuses carried out by the National Guard in various oil camps towards former PDVSA employees. After reading those files any right thinking person can reach the conclusion that the regime of Hugo Chavez is one that encroaches on human rights, yet AI is completely silent about it. Why Mr Saiz? Can you provide a coherent an credible explanation for it? AI has failed to produce statements regarding the events of April 2002, Altamira 2002, Los Semerucos 2003 amongst others, my only question is why? What else does AI needs in order to realize the seriousness of the situation? Is the political tendency of AI members blocking the possibility of calling things by their name? If AI is not in the position to work on all the cases received, why even bother in receiving material which does not fit your profile in the first place? Why AI does not accept the genuine offer of collaboration that other people deeply touched by those issues may provide?

As I have stated before I am at your disposition to collaborate and I also guarantee without a trace of doubt that very many of my countrymen in Venezuela and abroad would be delighted to help your organization in clarifying the obnubilated impression that you may have about human rights issues in Venezuela.

Yours sincerely,

Aleksander Boyd

Mr Ignacio Saiz original message

Dear Mr Boyd,

I am writing to you in response to your request for clarification regarding the decision not to screen the documentary "The Revolution Will Not Be Televised".

In consultation with the international movement of Amnesty International, AI Canada decided not to screen the documentary "The Revolution Will Not Be Televised" as part of the AI British Columbia Film Festival in Vancouver, November 6-9, in order to avoid any misperception about the organization's concerns regading the human rights violations which occurred around the attempted coup in Venezuela in April 2002.

In its work on Venezuela, AI has attempted to highlight impartially the human rights abuses committed between 11 and 14th April and to ensure that these are addressed, by the authorities and by Venezuelan society as a whole, without political manipulation and exploitation, in order that justice can be done for the families of all the victims, regardless of their political persuasion.

The polarizied political climate in Venezuela has given rise to violence in a number of ocassions over the last three years and Amnesty International has always sought to avoid contributing to this polarization by inadvertently encouraging any misperception of the organization's work. The decision not to screen the documentary was based on an assessment of a range of factors related to the potential impact in Venezuela, a factor taken into consideration was concern for the security of AI members.

It is also important to note that the decision to withdraw the film from the festival was not a comment on the quality or content of the film. AI organizes film festivals in countries around the world in order to promote freedom of artistic expression. As is always made clear at such events, the films AI chooses to screen do not necessarily reflect the views of the organization.

On another issue, I believe you visited the offices of the International Secretariat earlier this year with Mr Mohamed Meheti, father of Jesus Mohamed Espinoza Capote, one those killed on 11 April 2002. I understand from your subsequent letters that you were unhappy with AI's response to the information put forward by Proveo. I wish to reiterate that AI welcomes all information that enables the organization to effectively and impartially document human rights abuses - though we are not in a position to work on all cases received. AI deeply sympathises with Mr Meheti and all the other victims of human rights violations and their families that ocurred between 11 - 14 April 2002 and, as stated above, AI continues to seek justice for all the victims of human rights violations between 11 and 14 April 2002. In order to make an impartial assessment of the investigation into these human rights violations we remain in contact with different human rights organizations and welcome information on the case.

The report which you left with our research team, along with the range of information received by AI on human rights abuses in Venezuela , will be taken into account in our analysis of the events of 11 to 14 April 2002 and subsequently. AI attempts to impartially document human rights abuses by corroborating information with several sources and assessing the manner in which the state responds to allegations of abuses. We try wherever possible to use first hand sources of witnesses or impartial experts in order to assess whether a state has met its obligations as set out in international human rights standards. Any documentation the organization recieves making allegations of serious abuses, such as the report you left with the research team, is assessed in the light of these requirements.

Yours sincerely,

Ignacio Saiz
Deputy Program Director,
Americas Program
International Secretariat
Amnesty International

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