Julieta Lopez, aunt of Latin America’s best-known prisoner of conscience, Venezuelan opposition leader Leopoldo Lopez, accepts the 2016 Geneva Summit Courage Award on his behalf and addresses the 8th Annual Geneva Summit for Human Rights and Democracy – see quotes below, followed by full prepared remarks.
On her feelings of injustice
“From the very instant that my nephew was unjustly imprisoned, I have felt such indignation that I turned into an activist and an advocate for the human rights of Leopoldo and the rights of all political prisoners.”
On the reality of Leopoldo Lopez’s oppressive detainment
“Leopoldo was placed in an isolation cell from the moment he was imprisoned.”
“He has endured deep cold that has hammered away at his soul.”
“His dark and narrow cell is not a metaphor – it is a way of punishing him”
“He is deprived of receiving letters from his family”
“The systematic harassment of his wife, children and mothers has reached new proportions”
“Since they deprived him of pen and paper, he couldn’t even write a message for you today”
I’m very honoured to be able to be here this afternoon and to express a few words about Leopoldo.
I came a few years ago, two years ago, on a number of occasions and I will continue to underscore the grave problem that our country and my family is enduring. I’d like to give thanks to you for this recognition and I’m going to read a few words now.
As you know, I am Julieta Lopez, the aunt of the political leader Leopoldo Lopez, who was taken prisoner on February 18th, 2014. Now, I’m not a politician, but from the very instant that my nephew was unjustly imprisoned, I have felt such indignation that I turned into an activist and an advocate of the human rights of Leopoldo and of all the political prisoners of Venezuela.
I would like to thank UN Watch and all the organisations that are sponsoring this event, for their recognition of my nephew’s struggle for democracy and for his great merit as a champion of human rights.
Well, I am going to recount now is common knowledge. For the past two years, the abuses committed by the government against my nephew, beginning with his unfair imprisonment have been denounced repeatedly. Now, you could think that what I am saying is redundant. But it is not. For the ill treatment, the arbitrariness and the abuse perpetrated against my nephew has been stepped up. The government has changed its tactics of torture subtly, yet openly. Leopoldo was placed in an isolation cell, as of the moment he was imprisoned. Now, this isolation is not an idea. Something that we read about and we turn the page. It means constant pain. He endures deep cold that is hammering away at his soul and gets under his skin. His narrow and dark cell is not a metaphor. It’s a way of repressing him, of intimidating him. Above all, when they punish him, and they cut off electricity and water. They monitor him from reading certain books. This is a crime against his freedom of thought, against his personal freedoms!
He is deprived of receiving his father’s letters and letters from his family. This constitutes an inhumane act against him!
They have denied him the right to have paper and pencil, so that he wouldn’t be able to express himself and this is an absolute violation, without the minimum amount of respect for him!
The systematic harassment of his wife, his children and his mother has taken on unthinkable proportions. They even stripped Leopoldo’s mother of her clothes in front of her very young granddaughter aged 6, to search her, and she deserved this child to have more respect for her innocence. This is a grave violation. Now, I won’t dwell on this, I just like to say that, they have taken everything away from him, except his thoughts, his strength and his faith and the deep belief that life will always have the last word and that light will overcome darkness. This is something I will repeat endlessly. There is no option, we cannot forget! To forget…- means allowing the worst for humankind. This is a form of violation. I will continue to announce the evil of this government, until we see that Leopoldo and other political prisons have been released. I will continue raising my voice and calling out for international help, to help us do away with this infamous regime. We truly need help!
I would like to thank you for this recognition given to my nephew. I thank you from the bottom of my heart! I thank you for this honour, to have me come here, today and for allowing me to tell you about what Leopoldo is suffering from, as he’s locked up. It’s very difficult for him to send a message, since they took the paper away from him. So, he couldn’t even send a personal message to me, for you, today. But I would like to thank you for coming here today, once again my thanks for this recognition of his struggle!