Framed Venezuelan Politician Released

In February 2018, the Working Group transmitted RFK Human Rights and Defiende Venezuela’s joint communication regarding the arbitrary detention of José Vicente to the government of Venezuela. Even though José Vicente was conditionally released in June 2018, an August 2018 decision of the Working Group found that he had been arbitrarily detained and ordered the Venezuelan government to adopt the necessary measures to remedy his situation and bring it into conformity with the relevant international standards.

Venezuelan State Arbitrarily Detained Opposition Politician José Vicente García Ramírez

As a leader of the opposition Venezuelan political party Voluntad Popular, José Vicente García Ramírez brought extensive awareness to the human rights violations being committed by President Nicolás Maduro’s Bolivarian regime. In October 2016, he was arbitrarily detained by intelligence officers who planted war-grade weapons, grenades, and military uniforms at the scene, claiming that José Vicente was set to provide them to local gangs to target government buildings.

Two days later, a judge decided that there were no proven elements of conviction and that José Vicente should simply be prohibited from leaving the country. However, the court ordered his imprisonment in “the Tomb,” a Caracas prison within the headquarters of the Venezuelan intelligence service, a body notorious for suppressing political opposition against the Venezuelan authoritarian regime.

There he was tortured and held in a freezing cold cell with 24-hour blinding light, four stories below ground. José’s family—who heard about his arrest when a photo was published on Twitter of him in handcuffs, with grenades and military uniforms laid out in front of him—was intentionally misinformed of his whereabouts by authorities and unable to find him for five days. From the Tomb, José Vicente was transferred to Intelligence Service facility El Helicoide, where he was held in an insect-infested, 4-by-5-meter cell with 47 dangerous prisoners and no toilet. Eventually, he was allowed to see his family and lawyer, and in December 2016, a procedural court issued an order for his release. The order, however, was not complied with for another year and a half more. José Vicente was finally released on June 2, 2018. He had spent a total of one year and seven months arbitrarily detained.

Why is This a Key Case?

The silencing of political dissenters and opposition figures via the use of arbitrary detention, torture, planted evidence, and continued detention even after court rulings for release subverts human rights and forcefully represses a plurality of political opinion. The Venezuelan state under Maduro has also extensively used such measures—as well as excessive use of force and extrajudicial executions—against civilian protesters in an effort to silence dissent.

How is RFK Human Rights Supporting José Vicente’s Case?

Along with partner Defiende Venezuela, the organization filed a petition to the U.N. Working Group on Arbitrary Detention calling for José Vicente’s release.

Name of the case (as it appears in the respective legal mechanism)

José Vicente García Ramírez (República Bolivariana de Venezuela)

Month/Year of filing

February 2018 (RFKHR filed jointly with Defiende Venezuela)

Legal mechanism in which the case is being litigated

United Nations Working Group on Arbitrary Detention

Rights and legal instruments alleged violated (OR found to have been violated)

José’s detention was deemed arbitrary and found to constitute a deprivation of liberty under Category I, Category II, Category III, and Category V as established by the Working Group for violating

Articles 2, 7, 9, 10, 11, 19, 20, and 21 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights; and Articles 2, 9, 14, 19, 21, 22, 25, and 26 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.

Procedural stage

Closed. Opinion issued by UNWGAD on Oct. 2, 2018.


RFKHR and Defiende Venezuela

Case Partners

  • Defiende Venezuela

    We collaborated to file a petition to the U.N. Working Group on Arbitrary Detention calling for the release of José Vicente García Ramírez, a leader of the opposition Venezuelan political party.