Since September 13th, there have been compelling reports on the humanitarian crisis in the South American country and experts recommend that victims have the opportunity to access international courts in the face of impunity and lack of guarantees in their country.
Reports highlight the lack of interest of the Venezuelan state, led by Nicolás Maduro, in stopping violence and compensating victims of illegal detentions and torture, among other crimes.
The first report was presented in Geneva, Switzerland, by the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Michelle Bachelet. At the 48th session of the Human Rights Council, the Chilean highlighted that in at least eight demonstrations, out of the hundred that occur every month in the country due to the social situation, arbitrary detentions, the use of violence and at least one extrajudicial execution were recorded.
“I am concerned about additional restrictions and continued reports of intimidation and criminalization of human rights defenders and trade union leaders for their legitimate activities,” she said.
She added that since beginning of her presence in the country in 2019, her office received “reports of some individuals allegedly being denied food assistance on political grounds for criticizing the Government.”
But “repression is not limited to opponents of the regime but to anyone who demands quality services, health and anyone who defends these rights.” The report documents 17 cases of human rights violations related to the defense of these rights, involving intimidation and 12 arbitrary detentions.
During her speech before the Council, the High Commissioner insisted that “the role of civil society is even more essential and must be protected” and therefore announced that on September 10th the renewal of the Letter of Understanding was agreed upon, which will double the number of human rights officers in the country. “This cooperation will continue to focus on strengthening national protection mechanisms and access to justice,” said Bachelet.
Read the full report on the human rights situation in Venezuela:A_HRC_48_19_UnofficialSpanishVersion-1
The UN mission questions the judicial
The facts reported by Bachelet were corroborated by the International Independent Fact-Finding Mission on Venezuela on September 16th. The UN Mission warns that the “recurrent violations of due process in Venezuela reveal a justice system lacking independence”.
According to the UN Mission, the Venezuelan judicial system, in which 29 of the 32 judges of the Supreme Court of Justice were appointed on the basis of their political and ideological affiliation, has played a significant role in state repression. The pattern of serious human rights violations and crimes under international law occurs in the context of a state policy to silence, discourage and stifle the opposition by the government since 2014.
The UN Mission has reason to believe that in Venezuela the judicial system:
- Favors impunity
- Is not independent
- Does not guarantee the protection of human rights
- Is an instrument of repression
- Validates evidence under torture
The report has direct testimonies that show that “arbitrary detentions of opponents or critics were systematically carried out and that they were victims of forced disappearances, torture and cruel treatment by intelligence agencies”.
Read the UN Mission report here:A.HRC_.48.69-ES
Experts and civil society demand justice
On September 21st, in a virtual meeting organized by the Center for Justice and Peace (CEPAZ), international human rights experts discussed the role of the international community regarding the lack of access to justice in Venezuela, as well as the challenges to face the deepening human rights crisis in the country.
Watch the video of the side event here:
On September 22nd, the Center for Justice and Peace (Cepaz) published the report Access to International Justice for victims in Venezuela, in which it states that it is possible to apply the formula of the State’s lack of willingness to guarantee the right to judicial protection, as an exception to the rule of exhaustion of domestic remedies.
“The lack of independence of the judiciary in Venezuela deepens the denial of justice, when it is required, in international bodies, to exhaust domestic remedies that are neither suitable nor effective” explains the report made by Cepaz.
Consult the complete Cepaz report:CEPAZ2018_estilos31
Also in September, during the United Nations interactive dialogue, the UN Mission presented the conclusions of the investigations carried out in Venezuela, where they highlighted that “the justice system in Venezuela has played a significant role in the state repression of opponents and the government, instead of providing them with protection when they were victims of human rights violations”.
Watch the session here:
In this way, feasible cases, statements and evidence have been compiled that bring to light the exhaustion of domestic remedies in Venezuela. This is due to the lack of interest of the State to solve the economic, social and humanitarian crisis afflicting the country.
Since the beginning of Nicolas Maduro’s government, 6 million Venezuelans have had to migrate. According to the Venezuelan Human Rights Education Action Program, Provea, 36,842 people have been victims of violations to personal integrity during Maduro’s government.
Experts and international organizations agree that “in the midst of Venezuela’s profound human rights crisis, the independence of the judiciary has been deeply damaged, which has jeopardized its function of imparting justice and safeguarding individual rights” as stated by the President of the UN Mission, Marta Valiñas.
These facts confirm the importance of the work of the United Nations to give visibility to the human rights situation in Venezuela and the determination to present reports that confirm what has been denounced by civil society. It is imperative that these efforts are maintained over time, despite the omission of the State and the hostile environment for the exercise of human rights.
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