Caracas, Venezuela (VA) – A policeman charged with murdering a 14 year old boy at an anti-government protest in Venezuela earlier this year has been sentenced to 18 years behind bars by a Tachira court.
Javier Mora Ortiz, 23, of the National Bolivarian Police (PNB) was found guilty of fatally shooting 14 year old Kluivert Roa Nunez in the head with a plastic bullet on February 24 following a clash between hooded protesters and security forces in the western city of San Cristobal. The teen’s presence at the demonstration is still subject to debate, with some claiming that Nunez was actively attending while others maintain that he was an unfortunate bystander.
Ortiz was arrested just a few hours after the fatal incident and admitted responsibility for the death. The confession meant that the policeman avoided a public trial and was able to go directly to sentencing.
The case has been widely hailed in the Venezuelan press as a small but significant triumph against security forces’ historic unofficial immunity from prosecution in Venezuela.
“The National Ombudsman’s office welcomes the sentence against the PNB who vilely killed Kluiver Roa as an an unequivocal sign of a state against IMPUNITY,” tweeted national Ombudsman, Tarek William Saab in response to the sentence.
Following the teen’s death in February, Venezuelan President, Nicolas Maduro, moved quickly to demand a full investigation into the incident and took to the television to officially condemn the circumstances surrounding the teen’s murder at the hands of the police.
According to the Public Prosector’s Office, Ortiz was charged with reckless homicide, undue use of a firearm and the violation of international treaties to which Venezuela is subscribed. He will carry out his jail term in Venezuela’s Eastern Penitentiary Centre in Tachira state.
The sentencing of Ortiz is just one of the latest cases of security personnel being prosecuted for using heavy handed tactics or taking part in illegal activities in Venezuela.
Back in March, the head of the country’s recently formed presidential commission for police reform and former police official, Freddy Bernal, confirmed that the body had arrested 57 police officials since last year and dismissed more than 300.
According to Bernal, mafias have been operating inside the Venezuelan police force, taking part in lucrative activities such as extortion and kidnapping.
Several police were also arrested last year for employing excessive use of force during the 2014 wave of opposition mobilisations and roadblocks known as the barricades.
By Rachael Boothroyd