Ottawa – November 25, 2014 – MPs Irwin Cotler (Liberal) and Elizabeth May (Green) joined today with Lilian Tintori – international human rights campaigner and wife of imprisoned Venezuelan opposition Leader Leopoldo Lopez – and their international legal counsel, Jared Genser, to call on Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro to release Mr. López immediately.
Mr. López – whose great-grandfather was from Fredericton, New Brunswick – has been detained since February 18, 2014, after allegedly being charged with using “subliminal messages” to inspire people to engage in violence. In its own indictment, the Government acknowledges, however, that he repeatedly and publicly called for peaceful, non-violent action to secure change to the country within the parameters of Venezuela’s Constitution. Lilian Tintori has been engaged in a global campaign to press President Maduro to release all political prisoners, stop the persecution of the more than 3,000 people who were detained after mass non-violent protests, and end the impunity for security forces who killed unarmed protesters. She was in Ottawa today to testify, along with Mr. Genser, before the Foreign Affairs Subcommittee on International Human Rights.
Mr. López is the founder and National Coordinator of the Venezuelan opposition political party Voluntad Popular (Popular Will). After inspiring and participating in public and non-violent protests for political change in Venezuela this past February, has been held in solitary confinement, spending more than five-and-a-half months in 24/7 lockdown without access to his family. In addition, his cell was recently sprayed with excrement and the water and electricity was turned off for some 12 hours to prevent him from being able to clean himself.
Said Tintori, “I am so pleased to travel to Canada to talk about the serious challenges facing Venezuela. Leopoldo’s detention is emblematic of President Maduro’s failed policies that have left our country in such a desperate situation. I am also incredibly grateful for the strong cross-party support here in Canada for our efforts to secure freedom, democracy, and human rights in Venezuela.”
Said May, “We must stand for human rights and demand the release of Leopoldo Lopez. While respecting Venezuela’s sovereignty, we must ask that government to recognize that its actions are unacceptable to the world community.”
“Indefinite and prolonged solitary confinement – such as in Mr. Lopez’s case – has been found by the UN Special Rapporteur to constitute torture,” said Cotler, the Liberal Critic for Rights and Freedoms and International Justice. “Moreover, his persecution and prosecution for acts of protected expression constitute a standing violation of international law. His name must become a household name and his cause must become ours.”
Lilian Tintori and Jared Genser also met today with Minister Jason Kenney, NDP MP Paul Dewar, and Liberal MP Marc Garneau.