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States and human rights organisations urge the UN to continue focus on Venezuela

The UN must continue its multi-pronged approach on Venezuela, civil society organisations and States urged during a week that saw a review of the implementation of recommendations made by the High Commissioner for Human Rights to Venezuela and the adoption of the Universal Periodic Review's Third Cycle report on the country.

Venezuela continues to face a human rights crisis with the situation for human rights defenders becoming increasingly grave. This is not the time to reduce the level of UN scrutiny on the country.  This was the message that civil society organisations delivered to the Human Rights Council repeatedly last week.

With the Venezuelan human rights situation in the spotlight at the Council, Venezuelan organisations spoke of the ongoing violations suffered by human rights defenders in the country. Patterns of persecution, judicial repression, and stigmatisation, as well as legal obstacles, are evident and designed to silence and dissuade defenders from continuing their work.

During the presentation of the statement by ISHR during the interactive dialogue with the High Commissioner on Venezuela, Andrea Santacruz highlighted that ´Venezuelan authorities continue to carry out arbitrary detentions and short-term enforced disappearances. Preventive detention has become the rule’.

One of the cases of arbitrary detention highlighted by representatives of civil society and some States is that of Javier Tarazona, human rights defender and university professor, arbitrarily arrested and detained now for over one year.  

Civil society and States such as Ecuador, Paraguay and Peru spoke of the failure of the  Venezuelan State to address the structures and systems that facilitate violations, including with regard to the allegations of crimes against humanity made by the International Independent Fact-Finding Mission (FFM), all contributing to ongoing impunity in the country.

During the presentation of her report, the High Commissioner spoke of her concern over continued impunity in relation to key cases, encouraging ‘independent, exhaustive and timely investigations with guarantees of due process leading to the accountability of all perpetrators’.

She also emphasised her concern about the stigmatisation, criminalisation, and threats against dissenting voices in Venezuela. She further mentioned progress by the State in implementing her recommendations and welcomed the voluntary commitments made by the Venezuelan government.

25 Venezuelan civil society organisations questioned her findings based on their analysis of the level of implementation of the 43 recommendations issued by the High Commissioner between 2019-2022. The organisations concluded that the Venezuelan State has not fully complied with its obligations.

‘With regard to 33 of the recommendations, we have seen a worsening of the situation, especially regarding arbitrary detentions, the separation of powers, the situation of the Orinoco Mining Arc and economic, social and cultural rights’, said Sara Fernandez, who works for the organisation Cepaz. 

In their report, the organisations criticise the High Commissioner for not being sufficiently determined in demanding progress: ‘The margin of tolerance given by the OHCHR to the State’s non-compliance has weakened her recommendations and has led her to reformulate them in less forceful terms’, they noted.

With all of this in mind, many raised their voices to urge the continuation of the OHCHR presence in Venezuela and the renewal of the mandate of the Fact-Finding Mission in September.  During the Universal Periodic Review session, countries such as Brazil, Guatemala, Portugal, Sweden, Ireland and Switzerland called for the renewal of the Fact-Finding Mission and spoke positively about the role of the Council’s other mechanisms in ensuring impartial justice for victims.

Marianna Romero of the Center for Defenders and Justice noted,´(t)he scope of justice and reparations for victims will be determined by the support of international preventive and investigative mechanisms with expertise to continue to document the cases.´

ISHR fully supports the efforts in favor of the ongoing work of the OHCHR, the mechanisms of the Human Rights Council including the Fact-Finding Mission, and of the International Criminal Court in the country.

´The international mechanisms operating currently are complementary and play an essential role in encouraging greater cooperation from the Venezuelan authorities and – ultimately – in laying the foundations for a transition that foregrounds accountability and protects the rights of victims,’ said ISHR’s Eleanor Openshaw.

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