A U.N. report accuses the government of Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro of extra-judicial killings and of repressive measures aimed at neutralizing political opponents. U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights Michele Bachelet presented the report Friday to the U.N. Human Rights Council.
The report presents a grim picture of a society where people are killed, arbitrarily arrested, tortured and deprived of the basic commodities needed for survival. It reports a shockingly high number of alleged extrajudicial killings by Venezuela’s security forces against so-called criminals purportedly resisting arrest.
Michele Bachelet, the U.N. human rights chief, says perceived political opponents and human rights defenders are subject to threats, smear campaigns and widespread abuse including torture, sexual violence, killings and enforced disappearance.
“Excessive and lethal force has repeatedly been used against protesters. My office has also documented excessive use of force in the context of security operations by the Special Action Forces, with multiple killings, mainly of young men,” she said. “Many could constitute extrajudicial killings and should be fully investigated, with accountability of perpetrators, and guarantees of non-recurrence.”
The government’s own figures show 5,287 people were killed during security operations last year and another 1,569 people were killed through mid-May of this year. The U.N. cites other sources who suggest the real figures may be much higher.
Bachelet warns Venezuelans will continue to flee their country in unprecedented numbers if the abuse does not end and the dire economic situation does not improve. She says the situation is devastating livelihoods and shortening the lives of the most vulnerable.
“Many basic public services have all but collapsed, including transportation, electricity, and water. The health care sector is in critical condition,” she said. ” The non-availability of basic medication and equipment is causing preventable deaths, while non-availability of contraception forces many women to bear children they will not be able to adequately care for.”
Bachelet blames international sanctions, mainly affecting oil exports, for worsening the economic crisis.
Responding to the report, Venezuela’s vice minister of foreign affairs, William Castillo, tells the U.N. Council there is no humanitarian crisis in Venezuela. He says his country, like others, has economic problems due to many factors. Despite this, he says his the government is maintaining peace and democracy and providing for the needs for its people, Castillo maintains.
He flatly rejects the criminal accusation against the military and security forces of massive human rights violations. He agrees there have been occasional excesses, but says his country has the right to protect itself against certain security risks.
He says the report does not reflect the reality in Venezuela and demands its contents be corrected.
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