The highly-anticipated report on the situation in Venezuela from United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet was released today.
The report paints a picture of a brutal regime that tortures and detains opponents, engages in campaigns of extrajudicial executions “as part of a policy of social control”, and denies millions of people their most basic rights in order to maintain itself in power.
The scathing report constitutes the loudest, clearest denunciation of the Maduro regime’s repressive nature to ever come from a United Nations organization.
The report was compiled following a visit by Bachelet and her team to Venezuela, from June 19 to 21. During that time, Bachelet and her staff interviewed 558 “victims and witnesses of human rights violations”, held meetings with 159 organizations, and met representatives from nearly two dozen government ministries.
According to the report, the UN mission found a myriad of serious human rights violations involving virtually every aspect of life, from access to food and medicine to due process and political rights.
The full report can be found here.
Below, a summary of the report’s findings.
On the Right to Food
The report found “violations of the right to food”, and condemned the government’s much-touted CLAP box as not meeting “basic nutritional needs”.
The report also found that the government “as not demonstrated that it has used all resources at its disposal” to ensure Venezuelans have access to food, and that it had not looked to international assistance for help.
On the Right to Health
According to the report, the healthcare situation in Venezuela is “dire”. The report outlines the return of previously eliminated and controlled diseases like measles and diphtheria, and points out that “there is a lack of access to all types of contraceptives”, a fact that increases the risk of HIV and STD contraction.
Citing a study by the National Hospital Survey, the report highlights that 1,557 died in hospitals between November 2018 and February 2019 “due to a lack of supplies in hospitals”.
The report places the blame on these violations on the right to health squarely on the Maduro government, pointing out that its “failure to meet its core obligations”.
On Social Programs
The report confirmed that the Maduro government has denied Venezuelans access to subsidized food “because they were not Government supporters”.
On the Carnet de la Patria (“Homeland I.D.”, a government-issued piece of identification that grants the user access to government services), the report found evidence that the card is used to “monitor beneficiaries’ political activity”, confirming its use as a technology of social control.
On Freedom of Expression
According to the report, the Maduro government has mounted a systematic attack on independent media in the country with the goal of “[imposing] communication hegemony” in order to deliver “its own version of events”. As evidence, the report points to the fact that the government has forced “dozens” of independent media outlets to close, detained journalists, and blocked independent news websites from operating in the country.
On Repression, Arbitrary Arrests and Torture
The report found that the Maduro government has carried out efforts to bring about “the erosion of the rule of law and the dismantlement of democratic institutions”, and that these efforts included “criminalizing political opponents and people critical of the government”.
According to the report, the Maduro regime’s policies have all lead to “increased militarization of State institutions”, and condemns police institutions like the FAES for carrying out “numerous extrajudicial executions”.
The report highlights the regime’s campaign that “constantly discredits and attacks” regime critics, and outlined instances of “targeted repression” not only against opposition politicians, but also against their relatives.
On repression at anti-government protests, the report found evidence of “excessive use of force” by the authorities against demonstrators “to instill fear and discourage further demonstrations”. The report also highlights the existence of “colectivos” (pro-government civilian militias), which “resorted to violence against demonstrators, often in coordination with security forces”.
The report also includes an extensive section on arbitrary arrests and torture, having found evidence of the use of both as tactics to “intimidate and repress the political opposition”.
Of the 135 people that the mission interviewed who were arbitrarily arrested between 2014 and 2019, “most” were “subjected to one or more forms of torture or cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment”. These included
… electric shocks, suffocation with plastic bags, water boarding, beatings, sexual violence, water and food deprivation, stress positions and exposure to extreme temperatures.
On Due Process and Justice
The report found that of the majority of the victims of human rights abuses that the mission interviewed, “the majority… have had no effective access to justice and remedies”. It also points out that the relatives of the 2017 protest victims “continue to face pervasive obstacles” to justice, and that no progress has been made in a majority of their cases.
On the role of the Attorney General, the report found that his office “regularly failed to comply with its obligation” to investigate cases of human rights abuses, and that it does not provide protection to victims or witnesses of human rights violations. The report also singles out attorney general Tarek William Saab for his attacks “stigmatizing and discrediting” regime critics.
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