Venezuelans are fleeing to escape political violence, crime, and widespread food and healthcare shortages. Photo by UN/Reynesson Damasceno

UN Report Documents Human Rights Abuses Fueling Venezuelan Exodus

The Department of State said that a United Nations Human Rights report “illustrates the depth of the despair and humanitarian crisis in Venezuela”.  Further, the Department said the July 5 report “confirms that Nicolás Maduro and his thugs are committing gross violations of the human rights of the Venezuelan people and depriving them of their basic rights and freedoms through systemic repression, torture, and intimidation.”

The former Maduro regime’s Special Action Forces killed at least 5,287 people in 2018 and, at minimum, another 1,569 by mid-May, 2019.

The report, published by the UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR), also follows the alleged torture and killing of Capitán de Corbeta Rafael Acosta Arévalo, a Venezuelan Naval Officer, who died while in the custody of Maduro’s thugs and their Cuban minders.

Previous OHCHR reports have highlighted killings, the use of excessive force against demonstrators, arbitrary detentions, ill-treatment and torture. The latest publication warns that “if the situation does not improve, the unprecedented outflow of Venezuelan migrants and refugees will continue, and the living conditions of those who remain will worsen”.

Some four million people are now believed to have left the country in the last four years, amid reportedly dire shortages of food and basic services. People are spending an average of ten hours per day queuing for food. Health provision is also described as “dire, with hospitals lacking staff, supplies, medicines and electricity to keep vital machinery running”. Between November 2018 and February 2019, 1,557 people died because of lack of supplies in hospitals, the report notes, citing a national hospital survey.

The latest OHCHR report’s findings are based on more than 550 interviews with victims and witnesses of abuses and the deteriorating economic situation in Venezuela and eight other countries. As well as detailing how State institutions have been “steadily militarized” over the past decade, it states that civil and military forces have been allegedly responsible for “arbitrary detentions, ill-treatment and torture” of critics of the Government; sexual and gender-based violence in detention and “excessive use of force during demonstrations”.

Citing 66 deaths during protests between January and May 2019, of which 52 were attributable to Government security forces, or pro-Government armed civilian groups known as “colectivos”, OHCHR maintains that, as of 31 May 2019, 793 people remained in arbitrary detention, including 58 women.

“They contributed to the deteriorating situation by exercising social control and helping repress demonstrations,” the OHCHR report says of the paramilitary groups.

Allegations of extrajudicial killings by security forces have been “shockingly high”, the report continues, citing the involvement of Government so-called Special Action Forces (FAES).

Indigenous people have been disproportionately impacted, amid a loss of control of their land to military forces, organized criminal gangs and armed groups.

“Mining, particularly in Amazonas and Bolivar…has resulted in violations of various collective rights, including rights to maintain customs, traditional ways of life, and a spiritual relationship with their land,” the report adds.

The Venezuelan representative to the Human Rights council has dismissed the OHCHR report, calling its contents “incomprehensible”, lacking in “scientific rigor” and omitting to mention the “immoral blockade” facing the country.

The U.S. Department of State is calling on the international community to condemn the illegitimate Maduro regime and stand together to fight against its willful disregard for human rights and impunity.

“We appeal to the countries that have not yet formally recognized Interim President Guaido to do so as soon as possible, and withdraw any lingering support for the former Maduro regime’s de facto hold on power.”

Read the full report at OHCHR

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Kylie Bielby has more than 20 years' experience in reporting and editing a wide range of security topics, covering geopolitical and policy analysis to international and country-specific trends and events. Before joining GTSC's Homeland Security Today staff, she was an editor and contributor for Jane's, and a columnist and managing editor for security and counter-terror publications.

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