7. On October 13, 2005, the State presented its brief to the Commission responding to the
complaint lodged by the petitioners. The Commission, in turn, transmitted the observations to
the petitioner on October 26, 2005, granting one month to submit observations. At the time of
writing of this report, the Commission has not received new observations on the part of the
petitioner.
III.

POSITIONS OF THE PARTIES

A.

Position of the Petitioner

8. The petitioner states that Mr. Francisco Usón Ramírez is a Venezuelan citizen and a retired
Brigadier General of the Army of Venezuela.
9. The petition states that on April 16, 2004, Mr. Usón and Ms. Patricia Poleo were invited to
appear on a television program, where they were interviewed regarding a fire that had
occurred on March 30, 2004, in a punishment cell of Fort Mara, in Maracaibo. 2 According to the
petitioner, in the interview, reference was made to the theory that soldiers had been burned
with a flamethrower. In response to the questions posed by Ms. Marta Colomina, host of the
program, regarding said theory, the petitioner states that Mr. Usón, “without endorsing this
version […] restricted himself to offering a technical opinion, explaining how a flamethrower
works, that it was invented during the Second World War, and that it uses a mix of gasoline
and napalm.”
10. The petitioner claims that around or about 8:30 a.m. of May 22, 2004, Mr. Usón was
arrested in the airport of the city of Puerto Ordaz pursuant to an order of theTribunal Militar
Primero de Primera Instancia Permanente de La Guaira [First Military Tribunal of the First
Permanent Instance of La Guaira]. The petitioner further asserts that the order responded to
an arrest warrant filed on May 21, 2004 by the Military Prosecutor of the jurisdiction of the
Permanent War Council of Caracas, due to the “unfounded and irresponsible statements made
by citizen and retired Brigadier General (Army) Francisco Vicente Usón Ramírez to Venezuelan
media.” The petitioner states that the arrest of Mr. Usón was arbitrary, and was carried out “to
persecute him as an adversary of the regime.”
11. The petitioner claims that the State violated Mr. Usón’s right to personal liberty since at
the time of his arrest he was “vaguely informed of the reasons for it and of the charges made
against him. Moreover, he was not taken without delay before a judge or judicial officer: this
did not happen until more than 48 hours after his detention.” In addition, the complaint states
that at 16:00 hours (4:00 p.m.) of May 24, 2004, Mr. Usón was taken “before [the Juzgado
Segundo de Primera Instancia Permanente en lo Penal Militar de Caracas (Second Criminal
Military Court of the First Permanent Instance of Caracas)], where a preliminary hearing was
held regarding his case.” 3This court, according to the petitioner, denied Mr. Usón his right to
pretrial release, arguing that there was a “risk of his absconding.” The court also stated that
the criminal proceedings against him would not be made public, under “the pretext that the
facts of the case constituted a serious disturbance to the security of the State.”
12. According to the petition, on October 11, 2004, in a judgment published on November 8,
2004, the First Military criminal Trial Court of the Metropolitan Area of Caracas sentenced Mr.
Usón to five years and six months in prison for the crime of “insult against the National Armed
Forces”, typified by article 505 of the Código Orgánico de Justicia Militar de Venezuela [Organic
2

According to information collected by the IACHR, the day before the abovementioned program came on the air, Ms.
Patricia Poleo, in a column in the daily newspaper Nuevo País, published a version of the events of Fort Mara,
according to which the incident had been caused by the use of a flamethrower from outside the punishment cell. The
information received by the IACHR indicates that in the incident two soldiers were killed and several other suffered
very serious burns.
3
The Commission takes note of the fact that among the annexes provided by the petitioner, there is the statement
that on May 23, 2004 Mr. Usón was originally taken before the First Military Tribunal of the First Permanent Instance of
La Guaira. However, the tribunal concluded the hearing declaring itself incompetent to hear the case. On that same
day, it is stated, the tribunal, “against the rules of criminal procedure,” forwarded the case file to the Second Criminal
Military Court of the First Permanent Instance of Caracas, so that the hearing could be held “yet again.”

2

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