UN report: ‘crimes against humanity’ in Venezuela

Venezuela protests

A UN report published Sept. 16¬†accused Venezuelan state authorities, including the president, of being complicit in human rights violations and abuses “amounting to crimes against humanity.” An Independent International Fact-Finding Mission on the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela found cases of extrajudicial executions, disappearances, arbitrary detentions and torture committed by the government or its agents. The Mission investigated 223 cases and reviewed an additional 2,891 cases to compile a pattern of violations. High-level authorities, including the ministers of the Interior and Defense, as well as President Nicol√°s Maduro himself, were not only aware of the violations but gave the orders and provided the resources to carry them out. “Far from being isolated acts,”¬†said Marta Vali√Īas, chairperson of the Mission, “these crimes were coordinated and committed pursuant to State policies, with the knowledge or direct support of commanding officers and senior government officials.”

The violations have been ongoing since 2014, the report said. Among the findings were accounts of intelligence and police services being given the green light to execute suspects in simulated “confrontations,”¬†where the authorities plant weapons on the victims to allow security forces to claim they had to kill in their own defense. There have been no prosecutions for the vast majority of these killings, which “appear part of a policy to eliminate unwanted members of society under the cover of combating crime,”¬†said Vali√Īas.

Political dissidents, human rights activists and others perceived to be opponents of the government were targeted for unlawful detentions that involved the use of torture to extract confessions or simply as a form of punishment. Officials within the Bolivarian National Intelligence Service (SEBIN) and General Directorate of Military Counter-Intelligence (DGCIM) had full knowledge of the detentions and torture, and the report recommended that they be investigated and prosecuted. “Other jurisdictions in accordance to their national laws, as well as the International Criminal Court, should also consider legal actions against individuals responsible for violations and crimes the Mission identified,” the report concluded.

From Jurist, Sept. 17. Used with permission.

Note: In 2018, an Amnesty International report stated that¬†Venezuela is experiencing the “worst human rights crisis”¬†in its history.

Photo: WikiMedia Commons

  1. Bolivarian Revolution devours own children

    A harrowing¬†New York Times¬†report notes extrajudicial executions of longtime supporters of Venezuela’s “revolution”¬†by Maduro’s undercover operatives after they started raising criticisms. Popular radio host Jos√© Carmelo Bislick¬†accused local officials of corruption on his program, “The People’s Combat.” Weeks later, he was taken by masked gunmen and executed. His body was found wearing his favorite Che Guevara t-shirt.

  2. Growing persecution of activists in Venezuela

    Three local and foreign human rights organizations reported Feb. 2 that attacks on rights defenders and civil society organizations in Venezuela have increased by 157% since 2019. The Human Rights Office of the Archdiocese of Caracas, the Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders, and the non-governmental organization COFAVIC jointly published the report, which finds that the human rights crisis in Venezuela has deepened significantly against the backdrop of COVID-19.

    The report especially highlights the recent arbitrary arrest and prosecution of five members of Azul Positivo (Blue Positive), an organization working to support disease prevention.

    In the last month, military agents have “forcibly entered the offices of civil society organizations; public threats have been made against defenders who have been engaging with human rights mechanisms, NGO bank accounts have been frozen and arrest warrants [have] been issued for aid workers,” according to a¬†press release¬†from Human Rights Watch. Eleven civil rights organizations signed the statement issued by Human Rights Watch and called on Venezuelan authorities to stop the harassment and threats. (Jurist)

  3. UN rights expert: drop sanctions against Venezuela

    The UN Special Rapporteur on unilateral coercive measures and human rights, Alena Douhan, on Feb. 12¬†urged¬†the US, the EU and other states to lift unilateral sanctions imposed against Venezuela, claiming that they have only “exacerbated pre-existing calamities.”

    Douhan, who had been traveling around Venezuela for two weeks talking to “the widest range of people to listen to their experience and insights,”¬†said in her preliminary report that sanctions have crippled Venezuela, leading to an “economic, humanitarian and development crisis.”¬†She said:

    Lack of necessary machinery, spare parts, electricity, water, fuel, gas, food and medicine, growing insufficiency of qualified workers many of whom have left the country for better economic opportunities, in particular medical personnel, engineers, teachers, professors, judges and policemen, has enormous impact over all categories of human rights, including the rights to life, to food, to health and to development.

    According to Douhan, the devastating effects of the sanctions have been “multiplied by extra-territoriality and over-compliance,”¬†and are felt by all facets of society, both public and private. However, they are felt most keenly by those most vulnerable: women, children, medical workers, people with disabilities or life-threatening or chronic diseases, the homeless and indigenous populations. (Jurist)

  4. UN charges extrajudicial killings by Venezuelan police

    UN human rights experts¬†condemned¬†“large-scale”¬†human rights violations in Venezuela that “amount to crimes against humanity.” The UN Human Rights Council¬†initiated a fact-finding mission in Venezuela¬†in September 2019. Marta Vali√Īas, chair¬†of the mission, presented an update to the Human Rights Council on March 11. Vali√Īas reported that Venezuela’s contested December 2020 National Assembly elections led to a “political climate of exclusion of dissenting voice,”¬†citing the government’s investigation of opposition leaders and prosecution of political protestors. The fact-finding mission also voiced concerns about the treatment of prisoners, and reported allegations of torture as well as “sexual and gender-based violence against detainees”¬†held at intelligence sites.

    She also charged that the prelude to the elections saw a “grave pattern of extrajudicial executions committed by the Venezuelan security forces in the context of security operations.” She said the mission has identified over 200 killings committed by police forces last year, and is continuing to investigate these cases. She especially cited the likely involvement of the the Special Actions Force).

    According to Vali√Īas, public officials have impeded pushes for accountability for these killings, “failing to release death certificates, charging for autopsies and delivering bodies with the casket closed, with the instruction that it not be opened.” (Jurist)

  5. US blocks Venezuela from proceeding with WTO sanctions dispute

    The US¬†blocked¬†Venezuela on March 26 from pursuing its dispute over US sanctions at the World Trade Organization (WTO).¬†Office of the US Trade Representative spokesperson Adam Hodge said: “The United States will reject any effort by Maduro to misuse the WTO to attack U.S. sanctions aimed at restoring human rights and democracy to Venezuela. The United States exercised its rights as a WTO Member to object to this illegitimate panel request because representatives of the Maduro regime do not speak on behalf of the Venezuelan people.” (Jurist)

  6. The US-Venezuela thaw

    President Nicol√°s Maduro is¬†sending more positive signals¬†towards the Biden administration in the hope that punitive US economic sanctions may be eased. After weeks of¬†secret talksbetween the Venezuelan government and the opposition, two Maduro opponents were named onto a new five-member elections board. The United States had long accused Maduro of using the board to manipulate election results. Just a few days earlier, the seeming charm offensive towards the United States saw the¬†release into house arrest¬†of¬†six jailed executives¬†from Citgo, an American refinery owned by Venezuela‚Äôs state oil company. Shortly before that, Maduro‚ÄĒwho had long denied¬†the deepening humanitarian crisis in his country¬†and resisted outside assistance ‚Äď stood side-by-side with World Food Programme chief David Beasley to announce an¬†agreement to allow emergency food supplies¬†to 1.5 million Venezuelan children by the 2022-2023 school year. (The New Humanitarian)

  7. Venezuelan opposition to take part in local elections

    The opposition parties grouped in the so-called Unitary Platform and led by Juan Guaid√≥ announced a reversal of their stance of boycotting recent votes, saying they will¬†participate in regional and municipal elections scheduled for November. The Platform¬†decided to participate after a “difficult internal deliberation,”¬†motivated by the serious challenges facing the country and the “urgency to find permanent solutions,”¬†according to a statement issued by the group. (NYT)

  8. Venezuela judicial independence deeply eroded: UN rights experts

    Venezuela’s judicial independence has been deeply eroded, according to a recent report from the UN Independent International Fact-Finding Mission on the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela. The report details the central role that Venezuela’s justice system has played in perpetuating state impunity for human rights violations and repressing government opponents. (Jurist)

  9. Venezuelan government suspends negotiations with opposition

    Venezuela’s government said it would suspend negotiations with the opposition that were set to resume this weekend, after Cape Verde extradited Colombian businessman Alex Saab, a purported Maduro financier, to the US on money laundering charges. (Reuters)

  10. ICC to investigate possible crimes against humanity in Venezuela

    The International Criminal Court (ICC) is opening a full investigation into possible crimes against humanity in Venezuela. The announcement was made by ICC prosecutor Karim Khan, Reuters reported.

    The announcement of the investigation came after a memorandum of understanding was signed by Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro¬†and Khan in which Maduro’s government pledged to cooperate with the ICC.

    The memorandum stated that Venezuela’s government objects to the investigation, saying the events in the country do not justify “the movement from the preliminary examination phase to a investigation phase.” (The Hill)
  11. EU sees irregularities in Venezuelan elections

    European Union¬†election observers released their findings on Venezuela’s regional and local elections, noting that the Nov. 21 vote was marred with irregularities, including opposition figures being banned from running.

    It was the first time the EU had observed an election in Venezuela since 2015. The country’s last election was the presidential contest of 2018, when President Nicolas Maduro was reelected and his victory was not recognized by the opposition, or much of the international community. Opposition leader Juan Guaid√≥¬†led an unsuccessful bid to oust Maduro in 2019.

    Since then, the Maduro government has sought to win back legitimacy by opening negotiations with the opposition and inviting election observers from the EU and UN to witness the new vote.

    Maduro’s ruling party won a landslide victory in the election, in which part of the opposition participated and others, including Guaid√≥, boycotted. (DW)

  12. UK Supreme Court allows appeal in Venezuela gold controversy

    The UK Supreme Court on Dec. 20¬†allowed an appeal by Venezuelan opposition leader Juan Guaid√≥ in a dispute over whether he or President Nicol√°s Maduro has control over more than US $1 billion of Venezuela’s gold reserves held by the Bank of England. (Jurist)

  13. ICC to expand investigation in Venezuela

    The prosecutor’s office of the International Criminal Court on March 30 said that it would open an office in Venezuela to aid its investigation of allegations of crimes against humanity in the country. (Jurist)

  14. Venezuela rejects ICC decision to resume investigation

    Venezuela’s government on Nov. 5 rejected a decision by the prosecutor of the International Criminal Court (ICC) to resume an investigation into alleged human rights violations by the country’s officials.

    Venezuelan Foreign Minister Carlos Faria said that the government does not agree with the official request made by the Office of the Prosecutor. He stated, “Venezuela regrets that, despite all the information provided and the exchanges held with the Prosecutor’s Office during the year 2022, the prosecutor insists on an investigation based on secondary sources guided by political interests, in the V1 case.”

    The statement follows the application of ICC Chief Prosecutor, Karim Kham, for an order under Article 18(2) seeking authorization to resume investigations within the V1 case,¬†“notwithstanding the¬†request to defer the investigation submitted by the Government of Venezuela”¬†on April 15. The application sought to “continue cooperating in good faith and supporting the efforts of the Venezuelan authorities to conduct domestic proceedings that satisfy the statute’s requirements.”¬†(Jurist)

  15. ICC panel gives go-ahead to resume Venezuela investigation

    A three-member International Criminal Court (ICC) panel authorized the ICC prosecutor’s office¬†to continue its investigation into Venezuela for crimes against humanity¬†on June 27, over the¬†objections of¬†Venezuela‚Äôs government.

    The judges held that the internal Venezuelan investigations into the crimes do not have sufficiently wide scope. Venezuela had asked ICC prosecutors to defer their investigation in favor of its own, pursuant to Article 18(2) of the Rome Statute. (Jurist) 

  16. Venezuela objects to resumption of ICC investigation

    The International Criminal Court’s (ICC) Appeals Chamber heard arguments Nov. 7 over whether the court may proceed with investigation into human rights abuses in Venezuela.

    Argentina, Colombia, Paraguay, Peru and Canada referred Venezuela for investigation to the ICC in 2018. In 2020, the ICC Office of the Prosecutor concluded there was a basis to believe crimes against humanity had been committed. In April 2022, Venezuela requestedthe prosecutor’s office to permit domestic authorities to conduct investigations into the alleged wrongdoing.

    In June 2023, the ICC reauthorized its investigation, finding that Venezuela had not looked into the matter sufficiently. On Nov. 7, the ICC Office of Prosecutor announced that the “preliminary examination had been concluded with a decision to proceed with investigations.” Venezuela immediately appealed the decision. (Jurist)

  17. ICC appeals chamber dismisses Venezuela bid to halt investigation

    The Appeals Chamber of the International Criminal Court (ICC) dismissed on March 1 Venezuela’s appeal to stop the ICC‚Äôs investigations into potential crimes against humanity committed by the government of Venezuela. The court confirmed that its June 2023 decision authorizing the ICC to resume their investigations was correct. (Jurist)