United Nations (UN) investigators claim that the government of Venezuela has “committed gross violations” amounting to crimes against humanity.
Cases of homicide, torture, violence and disappearances were investigated as part of a fact-finding mission for the United Nations Human Rights Council.
The UN team said President Nicolás Maduro and other senior officials were involved.
Venezuela’s ambassador to the United Nations described the mission as a “hostile initiative.”
as part of a campaign led by the United States. The United Nations team was prevented from visiting the country.
Venezuela is going through a serious economic and political crisis. Millions of people have fled in recent years.
What did the United Nations team say?
In Wednesday’s report of its findings, the UN team said Venezuela’s security services had been engaged in a pattern of systematic violence since 2014, aimed at suppressing political opposition and generally terrorizing the population. .
Mr. Maduro and the interior and defense ministers not only knew about the crimes, but gave orders, coordinated operations and provided resources, according to the report.
“The mission found that the government, state agents and groups working with them had committed gross violations,” he said.
He called on Venezuela to hold those responsible to account and prevent further violations from occurring.
“The mission found reasonable grounds to believe that the Venezuelan authorities and security forces have since 2014 planned and carried out serious human rights violations, some of which – including arbitrary killings and the systematic use of torture – constitute crimes against humanity ”, declared the president of the mission, Marta Valiñas, declared in a statement.
“Far from being isolated acts, these crimes were coordinated and committed in accordance with state policies, with the knowledge or direct support of commanders and senior government officials. “
A typical operation may involve laying down weapons in an area considered loyal to the opposition, with security services entering the area and shooting people at close range, or detaining, torturing and killing them.
The report also looked at the violent reaction to opposition protests and the torture of those held there.
Investigators drew their conclusions after examining 223 cases. They said nearly 3,000 others corroborated “patterns of violations and crimes”.
The report will be presented to member states of the UN Human Rights Council next week, when Venezuela has the opportunity to respond.
How important are these results?
Analysis by Imogen Foulkes, BBC News, Geneva
The United Nations team has not been allowed to travel to Venezuela for this report. It is not unusual; Syria has never allowed the UN to investigate alleged war crimes on the ground. Myanmar, China and many other countries regularly resist the UN presence. But we are in the 21st century, modern information technology means that evidence, if not proof, of serious violations can be gathered without entering the crime scene.
And Venezuela’s evidence is detailed and horrific. Systematic murder, torture and sexual violence. Plus, clear evidence that the orders came from the top: Nicolás Maduro, his government, and senior security officials.
UN investigators have a list of 45 names of those believed to have been directly involved. The UN Human Rights Council is designed to investigate violations, to advise on respecting human rights, but not to punish. It is the job of the UN Security Council, and here Russia and China, which regularly oppose what they see as interference in the affairs of a sovereign state, may oppose any action.
But this list of 45 names is significant; this suggests that UN investigators believe they might have a role to play in building a prosecution case for crimes against humanity before an international tribunal.