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The Venezuelan authorities’ denial of medical care to a severely ill imprisoned opposition leader shows the cruel lengths they are prepared to go to in order to stifle dissent, Amnesty International said.

Rosmit Mantilla, Member of Parliament, human rights activist and prisoner of conscience was scheduled to undergo surgery for multiple bladder stones, recurrent gallbladder attacks and gastric wall thickening on 31 October. However, despite a judge’s order, he was instead placed in a punishment cell in a prison in Caracas. His health has been rapidly deteriorating since then. 

“Authorities in Venezuela seem to be playing an incredibly dangerous game to stop anyone from speaking out about the dire and deteriorating human rights situation in the country. They seem willing to push people like Rosmit to the verge of death as punishment for voicing their opinions,” said Erika Guevara-Rosas, Americas Director at Amnesty International.

“Rosmit should have never been put in prison in the first place. Preventing him from getting the medical care he urgently needs just adds insult to injury. The fact that this is all happening while the world’s eyes are on Venezuela beggars belief. If the authorities fail to act, they will have blood on their hands.”

Failing to provide adequate health care to prisoners may violate the absolute prohibition of torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment, including under the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, to which Venezuela is a state party.

Rosmit Mantilla is an activist for the rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex people (LGBTI) and a member of the opposition party Voluntad Popular (Popular Will). Since his arrest in May 2014 he has been in arbitrary pre-trial detention in the Bolivarian National Intelligence Service facilities in Caracas.

He is being accused of receiving money to finance anti-government protests that took place between February and July 2014, where the only evidence appears to be an anonymous testimony.

Amnesty International has been given access to the charges against him and strongly believes there is no credible evidence to support the accusation. The organization believes that the charges against him stem solely from the peaceful exercise of his rights to freedom of expression and peaceful assembly.