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Crimes against humanity continue in Venezuela say UN experts, naming perpetrators

In Venezuela it is government policy to torture dissents, the UN mission of experts on Venezuela told the world two years ago. These violations, amounting to likely crimes against humanity, continue. In their latest report the experts dive deeper into the nature of the crimes, who the victims are and names perpetrators. This morning this report goes before the Human Rights Council.

The experts of the UN Independent International Fact-Finding Mission on Venezuela have spoken of the deliberate policy to silence opponents designed and encouraged by President Maduro and other high-level authorities.

What their new report provides is a look at the systems, structures and roles that support these crimes. Such is the detail that included in the report are organigrammes of the lines of command in the counter-intelligence directorate and floor plans of the buildings where detainees are tortured. The experts outline the complicity of the judicial system that allows perpetrators to remain untouched, and name individuals who they consider should be investigated by competent judicial authorities. 

‘‘The mission has provided a chilling, detailed description of a policy of repression. The experts also have made clear that this isn’t just a record of past violations. These crimes continue,’’ said ISHR’s Eleanor Openshaw.

The Mission has documented 122 cases where victims subject to violations at the hands of agents of the military counter-intelligence directorate (DGCIM) from 2014 to the present day and another 90 involving the national intelligence service (SEBIN). The mission notes that it is through fear that other victims have not yet come forward. 

The crimes detailed include arbitrary detentions – in some cases in clandestine centres – torture, rape and other sexual violence and the use of digital surveillance. 

The need to eradicate impunity:

Perpetrators of these crimes could act with impunity, reports the Mission noting:   

Those who committed acts of torture could do so without fear of reprisals, either from superiors or the wider justice system. According to a witness with inside knowledge, committing torture in these detention centres "has no cost."

The experts note that there has been no sign of any domestic processes against those suspected of violations and calls upon the ICC, in its own work, to confirm if there are any proceedings being conducted against individuals named in the report 

Based on their overall findings, the Mission also calls for judicial investigation of President Maduro and the high ranking officials identified in the report in regard to crimes and violations carried out through officials in the counter-intelligence directorate and national intelligence service. 

The Orinoco Mining Arc:

The report does not stop there. In a second section the Mission looks at the human rights situation in the Orinoco Mining Arc known for illegal mining and associated abuses and violations against indigenous communities seeking to defend their lands. Indigenous leaders have faced attacks during military operations supposedly designed to control illegal mining but, the Mission suggests, more likely aimed at control of natural resources by the State or allied groups. The Mission has made clear it considers that further investigation is required of the human rights situation in the region. 

The Mission and the Human Rights Council:

The Mission will report to the Human Rights Council and participate in an interactive dialogue on 26th September as of 10am CEST. Follow the discussion through UN Web TV.

During this Council session, States are negotiating a resolution to renew the mandate of the Mission and that of the Office of the High Commissioner in regard to the Council. 

“The work of the Fact-Finding Mission and OHCHR are both essential in regard to Venezuela,” said Openshaw. “World attention and pressure must be maintained to effect change. The Council must renew both mandates this session to keep that pressure up.”

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