Venezuela: UN human rights body backs victims’ hopes for justice

Today, the UN Human Rights Council adopted a resolution creating a Fact-Finding Mission to investigate grave human rights violations and crimes under international law ongoing in Venezuela, sending a strong message to victims and perpetrators alike that impunity won’t be allowed to prevail, said Amnesty International.

“We welcome the action taken today by members of the UN Human Rights Council. It was high time for the international community, led by countries in the Americas, to listen to the long-forgotten victims of what is an unprecedented human rights disaster in the region,” said Erika Guevara-Rosas, Americas director at Amnesty International.

The resolution dispatches, as a matter of urgency, a Fact-Finding mission to investigate the policy of repression implemented by Nicolas Maduro’s government, including extrajudicial executions, torture and other ill treatment, enforced disappearances and arbitrary detentions, with a view to ensuring full accountability for perpetrators and justice for victims. It does this as a response to the multidimensional human rights crisis laid out in the resolution, including violations of civil and political rights and also the rights to food, health and an adequate standard of living.  This severe human rights crisis not only affects millions within Venezuela, but also has a regional impact. Over 4.3 million people have been forced to leave their country due to massive human rights violations, most of whom are now in other countries in Latin America and the Caribbean.

We welcome the action taken today by members of the UN Human Rights Council. It was high time for the international community, led by countries in the Americas, to listen to the long-forgotten victims of what is an unprecedented human rights disaster in the region
Erika Guevara-Rosas, Americas director at Amnesty International

“In fulfilling its mandate, the UN Fact-Finding mission will need to address the wider context in which the policy of state repression takes place: a dire humanitarian emergency in which essential human rights such as food, water and health have become out-of-reach luxuries for most people in Venezuela,” said Erika Guevara-Rosas.

“This resolution responds to calls for accountability made by victims, civil society organisations and states in the region, as they have not found any remedy in national courts and the government of Nicolas Maduro has isolated itself from any form of regional scrutiny.”

Iran presented a second resolution focused on the strengthening of cooperation by the Venezuelan government with the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Michelle Bachelet, and her Office, which was also adopted by vote.

“Cooperation and accountability are not mutually exclusive; they are complementary. Any solution to the current crisis must put victims first and offer truth, justice and reparations, and guarantees that it won’t happen again,” said Erika Guevara-Rosas. “In addition to engaging constructively with the newly created Fact-Finding mission, we hope for robust follow-up by the UN Human Rights Council should Venezuela continue to refuse to engage meaningfully with the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights.”

Additional information

Since 2014, Amnesty International has been documenting and raising alarm over the grave human rights crisis in Venezuela. In 2017, it established the existence of a policy of repression being used by authorities, under the command of Nicolás Maduro, against those who could be perceived as critics or dissidents of the government. Since then, it has been demanding authorities cease this policy and commits to protecting human rights.

In fulfilling its mandate, the UN Fact-Finding mission will need to address the wider context in which the policy of state repression takes place: a dire humanitarian emergency in which essential human rights such as food, water and health have become out-of-reach luxuries for most people in Venezuela
Erika Guevara-Rosas, Americas director at Amnesty International

In 2014, Amnesty International condemned the abusive use of force against participants in mass public protests, and later in 2015, the impunity the perpetrators of those violations were benefitting from. After a mission to Caracas in 2016, the organisation raised concern over the social and economic crisis being endured in the country. In 2017, during and after a period of social protest, Amnesty International documented politically motivated arbitrary detentions, abusive and intentionally lethal use of force, attacks and illegal raids on homes, amongst other violations.

This policy of repression continued into 2019, including since January targeted extrajudicial executions. Throughout this crisis, the humanitarian emergency continued largely unattended, with over 4.3 million people fleeing the country since 2015, at least 7 million in need of immediate humanitarian relief in the country, and an increasingly fragile provision of basic services like water and electricity.

There is little prospect of justice or accountability at national or regional levels. Those who raise concerns, or seek justice for crimes committed by the authorities, put themselves at high risk of violent reprisals, including arbitrary detention, torture and even extrajudicial executions. The generalized lack of independence of the judiciary in Venezuela and the frequent interference of the executive branch in their work, in a context of deep political polarization, has given way to the abusive and arbitrary use of criminal law as a mechanism to stop and prosecute people who have critical opinions on the policies adopted by the Maduro government.

For more information or to arrange an interview, contact Duncan Tucker: duncan.tucker@amnesty.org