At a strategic consultation in Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso, the National Mechanism for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders adopted its 2024 Action Plan to enhance support for defenders amid shrinking civic space and heightened State focus on terrorism.
This week, the Council held two dialogues on Venezuela: one with the High Commissioner and one with the Fact-Finding Mission on Venezuela. Despite their different approaches, the High Commissioner and the Mission this week told a similar tale: that of a serious human rights and humanitarian crisis in the country.
The High Commissioner spoke of the need to immediately release the arbitrarily detained and of concerns about the bill on NGOs before the National Assembly. He also noted the positive, recent 2-year extension of the mandate of the Office in Venezuela and what it meant for ongoing work with the government. The Mission spoke of extrajudicial killings and deaths in clashes with security forces, in a detailed and unwavering update, and called again for Venezuela to give it access to the country.
The story of the human rights crisis in Venezuela was also told by human rights organisations during the dialogues.
The rights of indigenous peoples:
ISHR highlighted the situation faced by indigenous peoples in Venezuela, in particular in the Arco Minero – a focus of concern for the High Commissioner and the Fact-Finding Mission in 2020 and 2022 reports respectively – and in the Amazon. ISHR highlighted the impunity surrounding the death of indigenous defender Virgilio Trujillo, from the Piaroa community.
On the rights of indigenous peoples, the High Commissioner spoke of the need for their lands and territories to be ‘urgently demarcated in line with the Constitution and international human rights standards’ and for their right to free, prior and informed consent to be respected. The Mission reiterated its concern about the situation in the Arco Minero and other areas in the south of the country, and of attacks against indigenous leaders.
‘The Council needs to hear much more about the perilous situation so many indigenous communities face directly from indigenous leaders and to take urgent action on their calls to address rights violations,’ said ISHR’s Eleanor Openshaw.
During the two dialogues, States generally welcomed the continuance of the work of OHCHR as well as speaking to the need for Venezuela to address serious violations. Brazil spoke to the need for Venezuela to implement the recommendations of the fact-finding mission and UPR. Colombia, however, made no statement during either dialogue.
‘A change of approach by the new Colombian government toward Maduro cannot include being silent while human rights violations of the scale described by the High Commissioner and the Mission continue,’ said ISHR’s Eleanor Openshaw. ‘Colombia has a key role to play in speaking up on international standards, recommendations and expectations.’
The complementary, essential role of OHCHR and the Mission:
Venezuela continued its recent approach of welcoming the work of the OHCHR and denouncing that of the Mission.
‘Venezuela is seeking to undermine States commitment to the accountability project entrusted to the Mission,’ noted Openshaw. ‘States must be careful not to let this divide them and distract them from the issue at hand: allegations of crimes against humanity and the just demands of victims’, she added.
‘The Office and the fact-finding mission play distinct and complementary roles. Both are needed and must be defended,’’ she concluded.
OHCHR will provide the Council with a report on the implementation of its recommendations in June. The Mission’s next report will be on civic space in Venezuela and will be presented to the Council in September.Download as PDF
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