Rocío San Miguel: Escalating Concerns Amid New Allegations Against Detained Venezuelan Human Rights Defender

Rocío San Miguel: Escalating Concerns Amid New Allegations Against Detained Venezuelan Human Rights Defender
© Ye Jinghan, 2018 via Unsplash.


Júlia Barreto Reis

International Justice Team Researcher, 

Global Human Rights Defence

The arrest of Rocío del Carmen San Miguel Sosa, a lawyer and human rights activist, political and military analyst in Venezuela, and president of the NGO Control Ciudadano, was confirmed by the Venezuelan Public Prosecutor's Office on February 11th, 2024. According to Venezuelan Attorney General Tarek William Saab, there was a warrant for her arrest on allegations of being linked to a conspiracy called "Brazelete Blanco," which involved a plan to attack a military base in Táchira, on the border with Colombia, and subsequently assassinate President Nicolás Maduro.

According to the activist's defense, she and five of her relatives - her daughter, two brothers, father, and ex-husband - are subject to "forced disappearance." Rocío San Miguel was detained as she was preparing to leave Venezuela and will face charges of "treason to the homeland," "terrorism," and "conspiracy," as announced by the Attorney General on February 12th, 2024. Saab stated that the anti-terrorism court will handle Rocío's case regarding the preventive judicial deprivation of liberty for the mentioned charges. 

On February 20th, 2024, Saab likened Rocío's behavior to that of a spy and made new accusations, stating that she would now also be charged with providing sensitive information to diplomats from four foreign countries and allegedly receiving cash payments from a foreign oil company. According to him, the lawyer would have held meetings with European officials to provide information about the Venezuelan air defense systems. San Miguel continues to deny all charges. 

In recent days, various multilateral institutions and countries worldwide have publicly expressed their condemnation of Rocío's arrest. Among them is the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, which, after commenting on the situation, had its mission's staff in Venezuela expelled from the country. The activist's defense claims that since the day of her arrest, her lawyers have been prevented by the court from taking an oath and formally assuming her legal representation to defend her against the charges made by the Venezuelan Public Prosecutor's Office. They fear that the deadlines for the decision may expire, making it impossible to present a defense. On February 18th, 2024, Joel Garcia- Rocío’s lawyer- confirmed that she had said that the regime does not allow her to choose defense attorneys of her trust.

Rocío thus continues to have her right to a full defense impeded by the Nicolás Maduro regime, and there is a significant risk that she may not be able to exercise the appeal and request investigative measures to refute the allegations made by the Venezuelan Public Prosecutor's Office.

Sources and further readings:

BNN Breaking News, “Arrest of Venezuelan Human Rights Defender Sparks International Outcry” (2024), BNN Breaking News, accessed 21 February 2024.

International Commission of Jurists, “Venezuela: Human Rights Defender Rocío San Miguel Must Immediately Be Released, and Charges Against Her Must Be Dropped” (2024), International Commission of Jurists, accessed 21 February 2024.

The New York Times, “In Venezuela, You’re a Critic One Day, and Arrested the Next” (2024), The New York Times, accessed 21 February 2024.

Voz, “Venezuelan Dictatorship Arrests Rocío San Miguel, President of an Important NGO” (2024) Voz, accessed 21 February 2024.