The United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) has called on Venezuela to conduct an “independent inquiry” into the death of jailed former Foreign Minister Raul Baduel, a prominent dissident who was considered a political prisoner by the country’s opposition.
“We are deeply saddened by the death of Raul Baduel in custody,” said United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet.
“We call on Venezuela to ensure an independent investigation, to take all necessary measures to guarantee access to health care for detainees, to consider alternative detention measures and to release all detainees arbitrarily. ”
Baduel was arrested in 2009 on corruption charges after clashing with the Socialist Party, eventually placed under house arrest and then jailed again in 2017 on suspicion of plotting against Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro.
A retired general, he served as Venezuela’s defense minister under former President Hugo Chavez. But the relationship between the couple broke down later after Baduel argued against a constitutional reform proposed by Chavez.
Two of Baduel’s sons have also been arrested on suspicion of conspiracy.
Raul Emilio Baduel has since been released, but Josnars Adolfo Baduel remains in custody, accused of taking part in the failed naval invasion in May 2020 known as “Operation Gideon” aimed at overthrowing Maduro.
The country’s attorney general announced Baduel’s death on Tuesday, saying he died as a result of the coronavirus.
But Tarek Saab did not say whether he was hospitalized or in prison when he died. Baduel was being held at an intelligence police station in Sebin.
“We are sorry for the death of Raul Isaias Baduel from COVID-19 cardio-respiratory arrest, even though he was receiving appropriate medical care and received the first dose of the vaccine,” Saab said in a Twitter post.
Baduel’s family said they learned of his death via Twitter.
“I have not received a call from any person in government,” said his wife, Cruz Zambrano de Baduel. She added that she was skeptical that her husband, whom she had seen four weeks earlier, had been infected with COVID-19.
Human rights groups have blamed the government for his death.
“With the death of Raul Isaias Baduel, there are ten other political prisoners who have died in custody,” said Gonzalo Himiob, a lawyer at the Criminal Forum, a rights organization that provides legal aid.
“The responsibility for the life and health of every prisoner falls on the state.”
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