Miguel Hernández is a 51-year-old Venezuelan citizen who works as an auto mechanic.
On February 5, 2010, Hernández was at the Nueva Esparta Stadium attending a Caribbean Series baseball game between Venezuela and Mexico. Hernández was wearing a short-sleeved yellow T-shirt with the phrase “Hugo, I shit on your revolution” printed in black capital letters along with an image of cartoon character Bart Simpson, depicted with his pants down and exposing his buttocks.
Hernández was arrested at the stadium gates as he was leaving the facilities, and was immediately taken to the offices of the Venezuelan National Guard. He was charged with the crime of “offending the heads of government,” punishable by six to 30 months in prison.
Venezuelan authorities are still prosecuting Hernández solely for legitimately exercising his right to freedom of expression. For over three years, he has been the defendant in criminal proceedings and still faces the possibility of a conviction and a prison sentence of up to two and a half years.
According to international human rights law, freedom of expression encompasses the right of individuals to disseminate their opinions and ideas, through the means of their choosing, in order to communicate them to the greatest possible number of people, with the understanding that the expression and the dissemination of thoughts are indivisible.
In this case, Hernández chose to wear a T-shirt at a baseball game as a means to express and disseminate a subjective opinion: his disdain for the “revolution” promoted in his country by the president. In this regard, Hernández stated: “ I still have my freedom of expression and if we live in a democratic country, I have the right to say what I dont like.”
Hernández exercised his right to freedom of expression in accordance with international human rights law; however, Venezuelan authorities are prosecuting him for exercising this right.
With these actions, the State of Venezuela violated (1) Hernándezs right to freely express opinions and ideas, even when they are offensive, shocking, or disturbing; (2) the general prohibition against the criminalization of expressions, especially those directed at public officials; (3) the prohibition against the criminalization of subjective opinions or value judgments; (4) the prohibition against the restriction of freedom of expression through the application of desacato laws; and (5) Hernandezs right to freely disseminate his ideas or opinions through the means of his choosing, in order to communicate them to the greatest possible number of people.
The authorities of the State of Venezuela that made the accusation against Miguel Hernández, as well as those in charge of his trial and possible conviction, have violated the international standard for the protection of the right to freedom of expression, binding for the Venezuelan State since the country ratified the American Convention on Human Rights on August 9, 1977.
In short, the State of Venezuela is responsible for the violation of article 13 of the American Convention on Human Rights, and principles 1, 2, 6, 10, and 11 of the Declaration of Principles on Freedom of Expression of the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, interpreted in accordance with the jurisprudence of the Inter-American Court of Human Rights.
The case of Miguel Ángel Hernández Souquett is the ninth that HRF has documented through its Caracas Nine project.
|First and last names:||Miguel Ángel Hernández Souquett|
|Date of detention:|| February 5, 2010 |
|Date of adoption of measures alternative to pre-trial detention:|| February 7, 2010 |
|Charges:|| Offenses against the heads of government |