Venezuela: Transgender Activist In Hiding After Threat From Police

Act Now For the Life of Maury Oviedo

SUMMARY

A leading transgender activist in Carabobo, Venezuela, faces the imminent threat of arrest and violent police retaliation. IGLHRC urges IMMEDIATE letters to defend her security and life.

Maury Oviedo is president of the local transgender organization Respeto a la Personalidad. She has led the calls for justice after the murders of Dayana Nieves and Michelle Paz, allegedly committed by police officers in the state. Now the Police Intelligence Division in Carabobo has issued an alert to all police officers demanding that, should Maury Oviedo be arrested, she immediately be delivered to the care of Intelligence officers.

No criminal charges or warrant against Ms. Oviedo exist. She is in hiding, afraid that this alert is an open invitation to officers to exact revenge. Local and international activists, as well as the local Ombudsman Israel Alvarez de Armas, fear for Ms. Oviedo's life and safety.

ACTION

IGLHRC, Respeto a la Personalidad, and Ombudsman Israel Alvarez de Armas ask for URGENT letters to Mr. Hugo Chavez, President of the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela, demanding his IMMEDIATE intervention on behalf of Maury Oviedo's freedom and life--and demanding that he stop the persecution of transgender people in the state of Carabobo.

Please write TODAY to:

Mr. Hugo Chavez Frias
President of the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela
venezuela@venezuela.gov.ve

And please send copies to:

Secretary Minister
msecretaria@venezuela.gov.ve
Ombudsman's Office of Venezuela
Dr.Germán Mundaraín
Plaza Morelos
Avenida México s/n
Caracas
República Bolivariana de Venezuela
Fax: 58(212) 575.44.67 or 575.38.62
E-mail: defensoria@platino.gov.ve
Salutation: Dear Doctor /Estimado Doctor
Maury Oviedo
Respeto a la Personalidad
respeto_a_la_personalidad@hotmail.com
Israel Alvarez de Armas
Oficina del Defensor de los Derechos Humanos - Carabobo
defensor_ddhh@hotmail.com

SAMPLE LETTER

Dear President Chavez:

I/we write to express our urgent concern over an order issued by the Police Intelligence Division in the state of Carabobo, demanding that any policemen who arrests Ms. Maury Oviedo deliver her immediately to the care of Intelligence officers.

No criminal charges have ever been pressed against Ms. Oviedo. She is not wanted by any judicial or police authority in Venezuela or abroad. She has never committed any crime. The only reason why Intelligence officers in Carabobo are looking for her is her relentless pursuit of justice in the murders of two transgender persons, Dayana Nieves (July 2000) and Michelle Paz (January 2002). Ms. Oviedo is an activist--president of local transgender organization Respeto a la Personalidad--and as such has denounced the crimes against Ms. Nieves and Ms. Paz at local, national and international levels. Evidence gathered by Ms. Oviedo points towards possible involvement of police officers in both crimes. She has submitted this evidence to the local Ombudsman, Mr. Israel Alvarez de Armas, to international human rights organizations, and to the Inter-American Human Rights Commission in Washington DC.

As a human rights defender, Ms. Maury Oviedo has the right to be protected by the Statein her pursuit of justice. The UN Declaration on Human Rights Defenders affirms: "Everyone is entitled, individually and in association with others, to be effectively protected under national law in reacting against or opposing, through peaceful means, activities and acts, including those by omission, attributable to States which result in violations of human rights and fundamental freedoms as well as acts of violence perpetrated by groups or individuals that affect the enjoyment of human rights and fundamental freedoms." (Article 12.2) As head of the Venezuelan state, it is your duty to ensure that those provisions are enforced.

We know of your commitment to create a new Venezuela where all human rights are a reality for all. We urge you to:

  • Conduct an immediate, sweeping, and fair investigation into the order issued by the Police Intelligence Department in Carabobo against Maury Oviedo; demand explanations from those responsible, and convey a clear message that no violence against the person of Ms. Oviedo will go unnoticed or unpunished.
  • Instruct Carabobo Police and the Prosecutor's Office to conduct an immediate, sweeping and fair investigation into the murders of Dayana Nieves and Michelle Paz, and punish those found guilty, as mandated by law.
  • Instruct Carabobo police and the Prosecutor's Office to Conduct an immediate, sweeping, and fair investigation into allegations of police abuse against transgender people -- such as the recent attempt on the life Paola Sanchez -- and punish those found guilty, as mandated by law.
  • Instruct Carabobo police to bring an immediate halt to arbitrary arrests of transgender people in the state.
  • Instruct the Carabobo Prosecutor's Office to conduct an immediate, sweeping, and fair investigation into allegations of extortion by police officers against transgender people, who claim that they are forced to yield sexual favors and/or money to avoid arrest. Punish those officers found guilty, as mandated by law.

Sincerely,

BACKGROUND

Activists learned about the alert issued by the Carabobo Police Intelligence Division on Friday, February 8, 2002. The text of the alert says:

"Officer: If you arrest this person, please report the arrest to the Commanding Officer and transfer her immediately to the Intelligence Division. Name: Maury Oviedo. Age: 28. Drag queen (homosexual). No permanent address. Monetary compensation is offered. A picture is attached."

Activists report that Maury is hiding in a safe place and --in her own words-- "will not go out, not even to get a Coke." She knows the police are after her and fears that "they will beat me hard, because I have created much noise at the international level. I consider myself a public enemy of the Carabobo State Governor, because he is the force behind all the abuses suffered by transsexual people in the State. Two have already died, Dayana Nieves and Michelle Paz. There is a possibility that the next victim will be Maury Oviedo, but I am not afraid of death. What I fear is the continuation of these hate crimes."

The local transgender organization Respeto a la Personalidad and the local Ombudsman, Mr. Israel Alvarez de Armas, have documented a pattern of police abuse against transgender people in Carabobo, including cases of harassment, arbitrary arrest, physical abuse, and possible murders. Activists have also alleged that transgender women are forced to have sex with policemen under threat of arrest.

In the most recent case of abuse, the victim was Michelle Paz (legal name: Janny Paz). Paz was a 21-year old transgender woman, born in Ciudad Ojeda, Zulia, Venezuela, and till recently living in Valencia, capital of Carabobo state. In the early hours of Thursday, January 11, her dead body was found in Urbanizacion Santa Cecilia, a northern neighborhood in Valencia. She had been shot four times. Persons living nearby heard no shots. It appears likely that she had been killed elsewhere and then carried to Santa Cecilia, where few if any passersby circulate at night. Her earrings, watch, cellular phone and cash had not been stolen. Her identification papers were missing.

No family member of Michelle Paz claimed her body--as is often the case with transgender and gay people. She was buried by the Ombudsman and local activists. Michelle's case has been registered as Expediente G-062148 (January 11, 2002) with Comisaria Las Acacias , Cuerpo de Investigaciones Científicas, Penales and Criminalísticas- -the former Judicial Technical Police Force--and as Causa 76.148, Fiscalia Quinta, with the Attorney General's Office.

According to local activists, police officers did not seal off the area where the body was found, nor properly protect the victim's personal belongings, as mandated by Article 15, Decreto de Investigaciones Cientificas, Penales and Criminalisticas (the ordinance establishing procedures to be followed by police officers). As a result, Michelle's clothes disappeared, and evidence they might have revealed is now lost.

Other incidents of violence abound. On Sunday, January 13, a uniformed police officer shot twice at Paola Sanchez, a trans woman, in Avenida Bolivar. Fortunately, Paola managed to escape unhurt. Paola lives in the same house in which her friend Dayana Nieves was murdered in July 2000. A few hours after the attack, police officers entered her house without a warrant, grabbed Paola by the hair and took her to La Isabelica, a local prison. She was released a few hours later, with no charges pressed against her.

On January 16, 2001, Vicky Martinez and Kevin Capote, two trans activists, were arrested and severely beaten by Carabobo police. Both were taken also to La Isabelica where they remain in incommunicado detention.

On July 29, 2000, Dayana Nieves, an 18 year-old transgender women, was shot and killed by two men, one of whom activists believe was a Carabobo police officer. Respeto a la Personalidad submitted a complaint concerning this murder to the Inter-American Human Rights Commission, and drew international attention to the crime. In reaction, local police arrested or harassed transgender activists. Estrella de los Angeles, Pocahontas Aquino, Nicole Mora and La Guajira Medina spent several days in police lockup, where they were subjected to verbal and psychological abuse, denied food and exposed to the cold at night--until other activists managed to get judicial orders for their liberation.

Maury Oviedo and other activists in Carabobo and in Caracas had planned to denounce Henrique Salas Romer--the governor of Carabobo, who has refused to take action to stop harassment against the transgender community-- before the National Assembly. Article 350 of the Venezuelan Constitution allows civic organizations to petition the Assembly to revoke the mandate of elected officers who fail to fulfill their duty.

See these previous IGLHRC action alerts for full background:

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