LatinNews Daily - 21 September 2022

VENEZUELA: UN report accuses gov’t of crimes against humanity

A United Nations (UN) report released on 20 September accused the Venezuelan security forces of committing crimes against humanity as part of a coordinated plan to repress dissent against President Nicolás Maduro’s government.


The report by the UN Fact-Finding Mission on Venezuela (FFMV) will be dismissed by the Maduro administration, which has denied investigators access to Venezuela. Nevertheless, the grim findings – particularly the report’s claims that President Maduro himself ordered arbitrary arrests and torture – are likely to reinvigorate criticism of his government on the international stage. This comes at a time when Maduro appears to be hoping against the odds that the global energy crisis could offer him a route back from his current diplomatic isolation. The findings could also be investigated by the International Criminal Court (ICC) in The Hague, which in November 2021 opened an official investigation into alleged crimes against humanity in Venezuela.

  • The chair of the FFMV, Marta Valiñas, said that “our investigations and analysis show that the Venezuelan state relies on the intelligence services and its agents to repress dissent in the country. In doing so, grave crimes and human rights violations are being committed, including acts of torture and sexual violence.”
  • The report accuses the directorate general of military counterintelligence (DGCIM) and the intelligence service (Sebin) of committing human rights abuses “to suppress real and perceived opposition to the government.” These crimes, the report states, are part of a plan hatched at the top levels of government, with the FFMV saying that key orders – particularly those relating to arbitrary detentions – were frequently given by President Maduro himself. The report states that “higher profile targets, such as opposition politicians, were monitored for longer periods, while Sebin would on occasion provide several daily updates to President Maduro on their movements.”
  • The FFMV found evidence of at least 122 cases of torture by DGCIM agents, and said it has investigated 51 cases of alleged torture by Sebin agents, including against opposition politicians, journalists, protesters, and human rights defenders.
  • The report cites former Sebin agents as saying that in some cases “torture was ordered directly by President Maduro,” and that frequently used torture methods included beatings, electric shocks, asphyxiation, and threats of rape against detainees and their family members.
  • The report notes that “admittedly, peak periods of illegal arrests followed by torture ended in 2019.” However, it states that “this is due to the fact that, over time, given the brutality in the execution of the plan, political dissent has been largely crushed.”
  • A section of the report was dedicated to human rights abuses in the Orinoco Mining Arc (OMA) – a 112,000km2 ‘strategic development zone’ created in 2016. It accuses the security forces of colluding with criminal groups that carry out a range of abuses in mines under their control, including murder, extortion, corporal punishment, and sexual violence.
  • It also accuses the security forces of attacking indigenous populations in Bolívar state’s Gran Sabana municipality, which lies within the OMA.
  • Opposition leader Juan Guaidó said that the report validates the opposition’s claims of systematic human rights violations, and said that “Maduro should be designated as a dictator and a member of a criminal organisation.”

Looking Ahead: The report will complicate growing efforts by left-wing, democratically elected Latin American leaders to rehabilitate Maduro. Colombia’s President Gustavo Petro is leading the charge with the planned reopening of the Colombia-Venezuela border on 26 September, but support is also coming in from Argentina’s President Alberto Fernández, who yesterday called for a lifting of sanctions on Venezuela at the UN General Assembly in New York.

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