Workshop with Foro Penal on the Istanbul Protocol

For several years RFK Human Rights has been working on the documentation and investigation of the use of torture and enforced disappearance in Venezuela as a tool of political repression. Additionally, it has worked closely with local partners representing cases of serious human rights violations and advocating on behalf of victims.

On September 20, RFK Human Rights held a workshop for Venezuelan lawyers from Foro Penal on the Istanbul Protocol and its use in the litigation of torture cases. The Manual on Effective Investigation and Documentation of Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment—also known as the Istanbul Protocol— was launched in 1999 by the United Nations and revised in June 2022. The Istanbul Protocol provides guidance for medical, law enforcement, prosecution, judicial and other relevant officials investigating torture, according the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights.

The workshop was facilitated by Veronica Hinestroza, co-author of the Istanbul Protocol 2022, and senior legal advisor at the organization Fair Trials, that leads, together with IJPP Mexico, the Red de Defensoras y Defensores Democráticos contra la Tortura (REDD). During the workshop, the participants were provided with specialized information on the use of the Protocol, and the ways in which it can be used to document and denounce cases of torture in the country.

The participants discussed the interdisciplinary use of the Istanbul Protocol, taking into consideration the different actors involved in judicial proceedings, and especially when acts of torture are alleged. Veronica Hinestroza emphasized the importance of the Protocol, particularly when the assistance begins at the early stages of detention; in this regard, she held that: “all lawyers must also be human rights lawyers, but this is particularly important when it comes to those who work defending people in the first stages of detention, which are usually the most vulnerable moments for torture.”

This activity coincided with a crucial moment for the achievement of truth, justice, and reparation for victims of gross human rights violations in Venezuela, given that on the same day, the Independent International Fact-Finding Mission presented its third report with its conclusions and findings on the human rights situation in Venezuela, in which it reported the systematic use of torture, among others.