Venezuela’s president and senior ministers are responsible for probable crimes against humanity, including extrajudicial killings and the systematic use of torture, UN investigators have concluded.
In a scathing and in-depth report released on Wednesday, the panel said it found evidence that state actors, including President Nicolás Maduro, ordered or contributed to crimes, including extrajudicial killings, enforced disappearances, detentions arbitrary acts and acts of torture.
The report highlighted appalling cases of torture and murder allegedly committed by security forces who used techniques such as electric shocks, genital mutilation and asphyxiation.
The findings, based on nearly 3,000 cases that have been investigated or reviewed, concluded that Maduro and his defense and interior ministers were aware of crimes committed by the security forces and intelligence agencies.
The report seemed likely to stoke international and domestic criticism of Maduro’s government, which oversaw a country in tatters with soaring inflation, violent repression and an exodus of millions of Venezuelans who fled to neighboring countries to escape the torments since he took power. 2013.
Critics in other countries have already accused Maduro’s government of crimes against humanity. The 411-page report to the Human Rights Council represents an in-depth examination of rights violations in Venezuela and was based on interviews with victims, relatives, witnesses, police, government officials and judges , as well as videos, satellite images and social media content.
The authors stated that they had not received any responses from the government itself.
The experts – Marta Valinas from Portugal, Francisco Cox Vial from Chile and Paul Seils from Great Britain – worked as part of a fact-finding mission that the Geneva-based Human Rights Council set up in last September to investigate alleged cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment and other human rights. violations in Venezuela over the past five years
“These acts were committed in accordance with two state policies, one to quell opposition to the government and the other to fight crime, including by eliminating individuals perceived as criminals,” Valinas told the journalists. “We also consider that the documented crimes were committed as part of a widespread and systematic attack against the civilian population.”
“For these reasons, the mission has reasonable grounds to believe that they constitute crimes against humanity,” she said, highlighting in particular the alleged arbitrary killings and the systematic use of torture. “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.”
The report found that members of the Special Action Forces, a feared division of the National Police Service and another unit were responsible for more than half of the thousands of wrongful deaths investigated by experts. Superiors had the power to give officers the green light to kill, the report’s authors wrote, citing a training video that showed officers being encouraged to kill criminals without compassion.
In the report, experts said the violations took place against a backdrop of collapsing democratic institutions, the rule of law and judicial independence in Venezuela. They said the vast majority of unlawful killings by security forces have not resulted in prosecution and “at no time have command officials been brought to justice,” according to a summary of the findings. .
A report that UN human rights chief former Chilean President Michelle Bachelet released last year after a visit to Venezuela that included a meeting with Maduro, said the government had registered nearly 5,300 killings in security operations linked to cases of “resistance to authority”. Bachelet also denounced a “shockingly high” number of extrajudicial executions.
Under article 7 of the United Nations treaty establishing the International Criminal Court, a crime against humanity is defined as an act committed as part of a “widespread or systematic attack directed against any civilian population”.