In an apparently unprecedented situation, a group of peace activists, known as the Embassy Protection Collective, have been at the Venezuelan embassy while it is besieged and attacked by backers of the Venezuelan opposition.
Mara Verheyden-Hilliard, mvh at justiceonline.org, @ThePCJF
Verheyden-Hilliard, is executive director of the Partnership for Civil Justice Fund. She said today that the peace activists at the Venezuelan embassy “remain lawfully present until divested of that right, which has not happened. If they were not lawfully present law enforcement would be able to take lawful steps to have them leave, but instead it is trying to force them to leave by allowing and facilitating a right-wing mob to commit repeated illegal acts — directly in front of law enforcement who repeatedly allow such criminal acts — in an effort to besiege and embargo the embassy. If the State Department or the police had probable cause to assert they are present unlawfully they have the means to address that. In lieu of legal process they are conducting and facilitating an unlawful effort to violate the civil rights of those lawfully present in the building.”
See video of Verheyden-Hilliard challenging Secret Service officers as they refuse to take action after a supporter of the opposition was apparently found to be attempting to use a drill to try to enter the back of the embassy. (The loud siren in the background is from a bullhorn, one of the tactics used by the opposition supporters to create a chaotic atmosphere.)
Peace activists were arrested yesterday, apparently for attempting to throw food and medicine into the embassy after the opposition forces seized control of the entrances and refused to allow people or food in. An opposition supporter was detained only after apparently physically assaulting a peace activist, see more videos at @codepink.
See Verheyden-Hilliard’s letter to the United States Secret Service and D.C. Metropolitan Police Department: “As you know, the Embassy is protected by the Vienna Convention and under that binding law the ‘premises of the mission shall be inviolable.’ Under the law the ‘premises of the mission’ include not only the building but the ‘land ancillary thereto.’ This without question includes the area of the front steps and landing, the back steps, and the back walkway. The host country is required to ensure that the mission and its premises are not violated.”
See recent interview with Verheyden-Hilliard on FAIR’s radio program, CounterSpin.
Cover image © Reuters / Clodagh Kilcoyne.