The Venezuelan authorities should immediately conduct a thorough and impartial investigation to determine who is responsible for the killings and other serious human rights abuses committed during the recent political unrest, Human Rights Watch said today

A number of people were killed and many more injured during political protests in Caracas leading up to the temporary overthrow of President Hugo chvez Frías on April 12, 2002, as well as during the following days, prior to Chávez's reinstatement as President.

"Those responsible for killing and injuring civilians during the recent period of political turmoil in Venezuela must be held accountable for their actions," said José Miguel Vivanco, executive director of the Americas Division of Human Rights Watch. "The Chvez government could take a giant step towards restoring confidence in its authority by making a commitment to ensuring that there will not be impunity for the recent abuses."

According to information received by Human Rights Watch, at least twelve persons were killed and many others injured on April 11, 2002, in downtown Caracas during a massive political protest by opponents of the Chvez government. Following this violence, the Venezuelan military forced President Chvez from office, and Pedro Carmona Estanga, head of Venezuela's largest business association, Fedecmaras, acted as the country's self-declared president until Saturday, April 13.

At least thirteen persons, and perhaps many more, were reportedly killed and many others injured during the interim period between Chvez's ouster and his return to power on April 14, 2002. Human Rights Watch has obtained information indicating that much of this violence was committed by police officers during political protests in poor neighborhoods of Caracas.

Human Rights Watch also expressed concern that, during the period that President Chvez was in the custody of the military, the police detained several Chvez supporters and searched numerous homes without complying with basic standards of due process. Human Rights Watch called for a full and impartial investigation into these illegal searches and detentions.