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Report of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights on the situation of human rights in the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela

Fernando
Fernando
41 min read

After Bachelet's visit to Venezuela, the United Nations Office for Human Rights published an 18-page report on human rights violations in Venezuela.

Report of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights on the situation of human rights...

Summary

This report, which is submitted in compliance with Human Rights Council resolution 39/1, provides an overview of the human rights situation in the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela from January 2018 to May 2019.

I. Introduction Report of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights

1. In its resolution 39/1, the Human Rights Council requested the High Commissioner for Human Rights to prepare “a comprehensive written report on the situation of human rights in the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela” (Venezuela) and present it at its 41st session.

2. This report focuses on the human rights situation in Venezuela since 2018, also analyzing relevant developments that took place before. It highlights patterns of violations that directly and indirectly affect all human rights: civil, political, economic, social and cultural. The report includes a gender focus, highlighting the specific experiences of women and girls.

3. The report is based on information collected and analyzed by the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR), including during missions. OHCHR carried out a visit to Venezuela from March 11 to 22, 2019, during which it met with a wide range of stakeholders, including state actors, in Caracas, Barquisimeto, Valencia and Ciudad Guayana. In addition, between September 2018 and April 2019, OHCHR conducted nine visits to interview Venezuelan refugees and migrants in Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Ecuador, Spain, Mexico and Peru. OHCHR thanks the respective Governments for facilitating these visits.

4. The High Commissioner visited Venezuela from June 19 to 21, 2019. She met with many counterparts, including President Nicolás Maduro, the Vice President, the Minister of Foreign Affairs, senior officials from 17 ministries, the President of the National Assembly and opposition deputies. He also met with the President of the National Constituent Assembly, the Attorney General, the President of the Supreme Court of Justice and the Ombudsman. He held meetings with representatives of the Catholic Church, the business sector, universities, students, unions, human rights organizations, approximately 200 victims, the diplomatic community, and the United Nations team in the country.

5. In addition to accepting an OHCHR presence, the Government made several commitments and identified areas of cooperation. The OHCHR will support the evaluation of the main obstacles regarding access to justice and the National Commission for the Prevention of Torture and other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatments. The Government also agreed to grant OHCHR full access to detention centers to monitor detention conditions and speak with detainees. The Government will adopt a schedule of ten visits by the Special Procedures in the next two years. In six months, OHCHR and the Government will assess the possibility of increasing the OHCHR presence and establishing a country office.

6. OHCHR conducted 558 interviews with victims, witnesses, and other sources, including lawyers, health and media professionals, human rights defenders, and former military and security officials.[3]. In addition, it held 159 meetings with a wide variety of stakeholders, including state actors. According to its methodology, the OHCHR requested the informed consent of the interviewed sources to use the information provided and, when appropriate, guaranteed confidentiality. It took every possible precaution to protect the identities of the sources, noting that many of them expressed fear of reprisals.

7. The report also reflects the analysis of numerous documents that OHCHR collected and reviewed, including official government documents, open source reports, legislation and legal documentation, medical and forensic reports, media content (including social media ), videos, and photos. OHCHR refers to official information and data whenever possible, but notes that access to such material is limited, as official publications, including statistics, have been scarce or non-existent in some areas, since at least 2015.

8. In line with its methodology for human rights monitoring, OHCHR exercised due diligence to assess the credibility and reliability of all sources and cross-checked the information collected to confirm its validity. OHCHR was able to collect, analyze and verify a considerable amount of information that provides reasonable grounds to believe that the patterns described in the report constitute human rights violations.

9. OHCHR evaluated the information collected in light of international human rights law applicable in Venezuela and relevant national laws. In addition, OHCHR was aware of relevant normative instruments recognized as complementary to international standards.

II. economic and social rights

10. The economic and social crisis sharpened considerably between 2018 and 2019. As the economy continued to contract, inflation soared and public revenues fell as a result of a drastic reduction in oil exports. The Venezuelan population is facing very diverse and interrelated violations of their economic and social rights.

11. Despite the fact that the Government has decreed several increases in the minimum wage, its purchasing power has decreased to the point that it can no longer be considered as a subsistence wage. In April 2019, the minimum wage, which amounted to the equivalent of about US$7 per month, covered only 4.7 per cent of the basic food basket. Despite some general government subsidies, those interviewed by OHCHR expressed concern that their families' monthly income was insufficient to cover their basic needs and that they only bought approximately four days of food per month.

12. The diversion of resources, corruption and lack of maintenance in public infrastructure, as well as underinvestment, have resulted in violations of the right to an adequate standard of living, among others, due to the deterioration of basic services such as transportation. public and access to electricity, water and natural gas. As of September 2018, members of the Government began to talk about the consequences of the economic crisis and to recognize certain aspects of the humanitarian situation, mainly regarding the shortage of food and medicine. The Government affirmed that it allocates 75 percent of the annual budget to investment in the social area.

A. The right to food

13. Information verified by the OHCHR confirms violations of the right to food, including the obligation of the State to guarantee that the population does not suffer from hunger. The main food assistance program, known as “CLAP boxes”, does not cover the basic nutritional needs of the people. The Government has not shown that it has used all available resources to ensure the progressive realization of the right to food, nor has it shown that it has unsuccessfully sought international assistance to address these shortcomings. In recent months, the Government has requested and accepted aid, although it has been insufficient to cover the needs of the population.

14. People interviewed consistently reported a lack of access to food, due to both scarcity and unaffordable prices. The availability of sufficient quality food is poor, with interviewees saying they eat once, or at most twice, a day and consume little protein or vitamins. The lack of access to food has an especially adverse impact on women who are the main caregivers and/or heads of households, who are forced to spend an average of 10 hours a day queuing for food. Local sources reported some cases of women being forced to trade food for sex.

15. In addition to hyperinflation and economic contraction, economic and social policies adopted over the last decade have weakened food production and distribution systems, increasing the number of people dependent on food assistance programs. The United Nations Fund for Food and Agriculture reported that 3.7 million Venezuelans are in a state of malnutrition and the NGO Caritas confirmed particularly high levels of malnutrition among children and pregnant women.

B. The right to health

Regarding the right to health in Venezuela, the situation is serious. Interviewees consistently described a health care infrastructure that has been deteriorating for years and is characterized by an exodus of doctors and nurses, as well as serious deficiencies in basic medical care and medication. The families of the patients have to supply all the basic necessities, among others, water, gloves and syringes. Shortages of 60 to 100 percent of essential drugs have been reported in four of Venezuela's main cities, including Caracas.

16. Similarly, diseases that were previously controlled and eradicated, including vaccine-preventable diseases such as measles and diphtheria, have re-emerged. In the last year, with the support of the Pan American Health Organization, the authorities have implemented a series of vaccination strategies in order to stop the spread of measles. The authorities reported that during June 2019 there were no new cases of measles.

17. There is a lack of access to all types of contraceptives, with some cities facing a 100 percent shortage. This increases the risk of contracting HIV and other sexually transmitted diseases, as well as the rate of unwanted pregnancies and teenage pregnancies. The rate of teenage pregnancy has increased by 65 percent since 2015. This impacts the right of girls to education, since pregnancy is the main reason for school dropout among adolescents. Faced with restrictive abortion laws, women often resort to unsafe abortions. This has contributed to a rise in preventable maternal mortality, with an estimated 20 percent of maternal deaths apparently related to unsafe abortions. Other main causes of maternal mortality are the lack of qualified personnel to attend childbirth, the lack of medical supplies and the conditions in hospitals, which have led many women to leave the country to give birth.

18. The National Hospital Survey (2019) found that, between November 2018 and February 2019, 1,557 people died due to lack of supplies in hospitals. The blackouts have caused irreparable damage, as revealed by reports indicating that 40 patients died as a result of the March 2019 blackout. During the High Commissioner's visit, health professionals and parents of sick children they mentioned the impact of economic sanctions on the health sector, particularly the possibilities of receiving urgent medical treatment outside the country, including transplants.

19. Violations of the right to health are the result of the Government's breach of its fundamental obligations, which are inalienable, even for economic reasons. The violations of the fundamental obligations were linked to a general lack of availability of and access to essential drugs and treatments, to the deterioration of conditions in hospitals, clinics and maternity hospitals, to the lack of underlying determinants of health, including water and nutrition adequate, the deterioration in immunization and preventive health and the restrictions in access to sexual and reproductive health. Violations of the right to health also occur due to the Government's failure to publish data on public health, which is essential for the design and implementation of an adequate response to the current health crisis in the country.

C. Social programs and policies

20. For two decades, the Government promoted social policies through the “Bolivarian Missions”, which were programs aimed at fighting poverty and social exclusion, as well as reducing the gender inequality gap. Today, Venezuelans increasingly depend on social programs to access minimum levels of income and food.

21. On May 13, 2016, the Government declared a “state of exception and economic emergency” and created the Local Supply and Production Committees (CLAP) as part of the local structure of the Communal Councils. These structures, together with the military and security forces, have the mandate to distribute food assistance, known as CLAP boxes, which, according to the Government, reach 6 million households. OHCHR received information from people who, despite not having sufficient access to food, were not included in the distribution lists of the CLAP boxes because they were not supporters of the Government.

22. Additionally, at the end of 2016, the President announced the creation of the “Carnet de la Patria” (“carnet”), a card through which all programs would from now on be delivered, including the new system of direct transfers of money to families. The list of beneficiaries of these programs is managed by the local structures of the official party, instead of by government institutions. The people interviewed reported that the members of these local structures monitor the political activity of the beneficiaries.

23. Women, who mostly take care of the house and the family, are the main group benefiting from health, housing and food programs. They also constitute 72 percent of the membership of the Communal Councils. However, discrimination based on political motives and social control through ID cards have a differentiated impact on women's ability to assert their rights. In 2018 and 2019, women led many of the local and peaceful protests, demanding access to basic goods and services. They also participated in anti-government marches. The OHCHR collected testimonies from women, including local leaders, who have been singled out for their activism, threatened by other community leaders and by pro-government civilian armed groups (the so-called “armed collectives”), and excluded from social programs. Women reported that they sometimes preferred not to demand their rights, including the right to speak out against the government, for fear of reprisals.

D. Unilateral coercive measures

24. The vast majority of sanctions that have been imposed to date by several States and one regional organization are selective in nature, consisting of travel bans and asset freezes targeting some 150 individuals, including senior government officials, or arms embargoes[18]. To date, one country has imposed broader sectoral sanctions beginning August 29, 2017. On January 28, 2019, sanctions were imposed on the state-owned oil company, PDVSA, also blocking assets and ownership interests of its subsidiaries. within US jurisdiction.

25. The Government has attributed the blame for the economic crisis to the sanctions imposed on Venezuela, arguing that, due to "over-compliance", bank transactions have been delayed or rejected and assets frozen, which hinders the ability of the State to import food and medicine

26. The Venezuelan economy, especially its oil industry and food production systems, were already in crisis before any sectoral sanctions were imposed. Figures published by the Central Bank of Venezuela on May 28, 2019 show that fundamental economic indicators began to drastically degrade well before August 2017. However, the latest economic sanctions are further aggravating the effects of the economic crisis, and thus the humanitarian situation, given that most foreign exchange earnings come from oil exports, many of which are tied to the US market. The Government has agreed to gradually authorize humanitarian assistance from the United Nations and other actors. However, the level of assistance is minimal in relation to the magnitude of the crisis and there is an urgent need to adopt structural economic reforms.

III. Violations of civil and political rights

A. Freedom of opinion and expression

27. In recent years, the Government has tried to impose a communicational hegemony by imposing its own version of events and creating an environment that restricts the independent media. This situation has continued to worsen in 2018-2019. Dozens of print media have had to close, and the government has shut down radio stations and made them stop broadcasting television channels. Arrests of journalists increased, including foreign journalists who were expelled or left the country immediately after their release. There are currently hundreds of exiled Venezuelan journalists. The Internet and social networks have become the main means of communication and information for the population, further limiting access to independent information for people who do not have access to the Internet. The speed of the internet is gradually decreasing, including due to the lack of investment in infrastructure. Also, in recent years, the government has blocked independent news websites and has regularly blocked major social networks.

28. OHCHR documented several cases of arbitrary arrests of people for expressing opinions on social networks. In the last ten years, the NGO Espacio Público has recorded arbitrary arrests and criminal charges against 55 people for social media posts – 24 of them in 2018.

B. Selective repression and persecution for political reasons

29. For at least a decade, the Government, as well as government-controlled institutions, have implemented laws and policies that have accelerated the erosion of the rule of law and the dismantling of democratic institutions, including the National Assembly. These measures aim to neutralize, repress and criminalize political opponents and critics of the Government. This trend has increased since 2016, after the opposition won a majority of seats in the National Assembly, leading to increased targeted repression of the political opposition and relentless restriction of the already limited democratic space.

1. Institutions and security measures

30. On May 13, 2016, the President of the Republic declared a “state of exception,” which since then has been renewed every 60 days.[24] The decree grants broad, vague and discretionary powers to the Executive Branch with the declared purpose of, among other things, preserving internal order. In 2017, the President activated the Zamora Plan, a civic-military strategic security plan for the joint operation of the armed forces, militias, and civilians. These policies imply an increase in the militarization of State institutions. Likewise, they extend the use of the population in intelligence and defense tasks, through local structures such as the Communal Councils, the Bolívar and Chávez Battle Units (UBChs), the Local Supply and Production Committees (CLAP) and the Redes of Articulation and Sociopolitical Action (RAAS) .

31. The security apparatus includes the Bolivarian National Guard (GNB), the Bolivarian National Police (PNB) and its Special Action Forces (FAES), the Scientific, Penal and Criminal Investigations Corps (CICPC), the Bolivarian Service of National Intelligence (SEBIN) and the General Directorate of Military Counterintelligence (DGCIM). The GNB and the PNB have been responsible for the excessive use of force in demonstrations since at least 2014. The FAES, a rapid response unit created in 2017 to combat organized crime, has allegedly been responsible for numerous extrajudicial executions in security operations., like the CICPC. The intelligence services (the SEBIN and the DGCIM) have been responsible for arbitrary arrests, mistreatment and torture of political opponents and their families. Armed groups contribute to this system by exercising social control in local communities, and supporting the security forces in repressing demonstrations and dissent.

32. The institutions responsible for the protection of human rights, such as the Attorney General's Office, the judges and the Ombudsman's Office, generally do not carry out prompt, effective, exhaustive, independent, impartial and transparent investigations into human rights violations. of human rights and other crimes committed by state actors, do not bring those responsible to justice, nor do they protect victims and witnesses. Such inaction contributes to impunity and the repetition of violations.

2. Attacks against members of the opposition and people critical of the Government

33. These policies are accompanied by public rhetoric, also used by high-ranking authorities, that constantly discredits and attacks those who criticize or oppose the Government. The political opposition, human rights activists and journalists, among others, are often the target of speeches that brand them as “traitors” and “destabilizing agents”. This rhetoric is widely disseminated by the pro-government media, for example, through the weekly television program “Con el mazo dando,” hosted by the President of the National Constituent Assembly (ANC).[26]

34. Successive laws and legislative reforms have facilitated the criminalization of the opposition and any person critical of the Government through vague provisions, increased sanctions for acts that are guaranteed by the right to freedom of peaceful assembly, the use of military jurisdiction to civilians, and restrictions on NGOs to represent victims of human rights violations[27].

35. In 2018-2019, a number of union leaders and many workers who had protested for decent wages and working conditions were arbitrarily fired and detained. Dozens of health professionals who protested the state of health care in the country were fired and/or threatened by their superiors, and some were arbitrarily detained. University personnel critical of the Government were threatened with non-payment of salaries, were prevented from accessing their workplaces and traveling abroad, and were arbitrarily detained. Human rights defenders were victims of smear campaigns in the pro-government media, and subjected to surveillance, intimidation, harassment, threats, and arbitrary detention. Chavista dissidents, military dissidents, and public officials and employees of state-owned companies, who were considered opponents, were also attacked. Many of the victims of such acts have reduced their activities, gone into hiding or gone into exile. Similarly, women, particularly human rights defenders, nurses, teachers and civil servants, have been targeted on the basis of their gender through sexist comments, online gender-based violence and public humiliation. The selective repression against members of the opposition and social leaders instills fear by showing the consequences that opposing or merely criticizing the government or expressing dissent can bring.

36. As of June 2019, the Supreme Court of Justice has lifted the parliamentary immunity of 22 deputies of the National Assembly, including the President of the National Assembly. Many of them have been accused of treason, conspiracy, instigation of insurrection, civil rebellion and association, among other charges, after August 4, 2018, when a reported assassination attempt against the President of the Republic failed, and the April 30, 2019, when the President of the National Assembly called on the armed forces to defect and defy the Government. Two deputies are in preventive detention[28] and 16 have sought protection in foreign embassies, have left the country or have gone into hiding.

37. Attacks against relatives of political opponents are part of the selective repression. OHCHR documented a growing number of arbitrary arrests of family members, particularly women, of suspected political opponents. Without access to lawyers, they are questioned about the whereabouts of their relatives and, in some cases, are mistreated and tortured. These arrests are carried out as a tool to put pressure on suspected fugitives, but also as a punishment. Family members are also victims of death threats, additional harm to their families, surveillance, intimidation and harassment. In addition, women are subjected to sexual and gender-based violence and humiliation on their visits to detention centers, during security operations and home searches.

3. Excessive use of force and deaths in the context of anti-government demonstrations

38. As the political, social and economic crisis deepened, the demonstrations against the Government increased in number and intensity as of 2014[29]. According to the Government, there were 12,913 demonstrations in 2017, 7,563 in 2018, and 3,251 between January 1 and May 12, 2019[30]. However, according to the NGO Venezuelan Observatory of Social Conflict (OVCS), there were 9,787 demonstrations in 2017, 12,715 in 2018, and 9,715 between January 1 and May 31, 2019. In 2019, the security forces did not carry out a excessive use of force in all manifestations. However, in the context of certain political protests, the GNB, the PNB, the FAES, and some state and municipal police allegedly deliberately used excessive force, in order to instill fear and discourage future demonstrations. Armed groups also resorted to violence against protesters, often in coordination with security forces. In many cases, these actions resulted in death and serious injury.

39. According to the Government, there were no deaths during the demonstrations in 2018. They reported that 29 people were killed between January and May 2019[31]. However, OVCS recorded 14 deaths in the context of demonstrations in 2018[32] and OHCHR recorded 66 deaths between January and May 2019. Many protesters were arbitrarily detained, mistreated or tortured. Security forces carried out illegal house searches against protesters.

4. Arbitrary arrests, torture and ill-treatment

40. According to the NGO Foro Penal Venezolano, at least 15,045 people were detained for political reasons between January 2014 and May 2019[33]. Of these, 527 were arrested in 2018 and 2,091 between January and May 2019. Most of them were arrested in the context of the demonstrations. As of May 31, 2019, 793 people were still arbitrarily deprived of their liberty, 1,437 people had been unconditionally released, and 8,598 people had been conditionally released and were still facing lengthy criminal proceedings.[34] The rest were released without being brought before a judge. The fear of being arrested again has led several of them to leave the country. OHCHR considers that the Government has used arbitrary arrests as one of the main instruments to intimidate and suppress political opposition and any expression of dissent, real or suspected, since at least 2014.

41. OHCHR was able to document detailed information on 135 cases of people (23 women and 112 men) arbitrarily deprived of their liberty between 2014 and 2019. Of these, 23 were detained in 2018 and 8 in 2019. Some of those cases were enforced disappearances. until the authorities revealed the whereabouts of those detained, days or weeks after their arrests. In most cases the arrests were carried out in response to people exercising their human rights, in particular freedom of opinion, expression, association and peaceful assembly. The arrests often had no legal basis. OHCHR also found serious and repeated violations of fair trial guarantees in each of these cases. None of the victims interviewed who were released have been compensated for the violation of their rights for having been arbitrarily detained.

42. In most of these cases, the detained women and men were subjected to one or more forms of torture or cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment, such as the application of electric currents, suffocation with plastic bags, simulations of drowning, beatings, sexual violence, food and water deprivation, forced postures and exposure to extreme temperatures. The security forces and intelligence services, especially the SEBIN and the DGCIM, routinely resorted to these measures to extract information and confessions, intimidate and punish detainees. The authorities have not promptly, effectively, thoroughly, independently, impartially, and transparently investigated credible allegations of torture and ill-treatment, including cases of sexual and gender-based violence, brought the alleged perpetrators to justice, or provided reparations to the victims. In particular, judicial authorities have often reversed the burden of proof by refusing to open investigations unless victims identify those responsible. According to the Public Ministry, 72 complaints have been registered for alleged torture and other ill-treatment regarding 174 people detained in the context of protests between 2017 and 2019. No information was provided regarding the status of the investigations.

43. OHCHR documented cases of sexual and gender-based violence against women and girls during their detention, in particular by SEBIN and DGCIM troops, as well as by GNB officers. The women interviewed reported physical aggression such as dragging them by the hair and inappropriate touching, threats of rape, forced nudity, and sexist and gender insults, with the aim of humiliating and punishing them, as well as extracting confessions.

44. In addition, information analyzed by the OHCHR shows that the conditions of detention of a significant number of persons deprived of their liberty do not meet minimum international standards on the humane treatment of prisoners and often constitute ill-treatment. In general, detention centers, especially pre-trial detention centers, are often overcrowded and unsanitary. Detainees have limited access to food, water, sanitation, sunlight, and recreation facilities. Their access to basic health care is restricted and even denied[35]. These conditions were recognized by the authorities during the visit of the High Commissioner.

45. The detention center at the SEBIN Helicoide headquarters is not adapted to meet specific gender standards. OHCHR interviewed several women who were detained at the Helicoide who indicated that there is only one cell assigned to women. This cell was overcrowded and guarded primarily by men, despite having female guards working the facility. The guards, as well as other inmates, put pressure on the women to exchange sex for “privileges” and/or protection. Several women also said that they did not have access to specialized medical assistance and that, unlike the men, they were not always allowed to go out to the yard or to the gym. Women detained for political reasons were often denied visits.

C. Excessive use of force and deaths caused in the context of security operations

46. According to the Government, the implementation of citizen security operations has led to a steady decline in crime in the country, especially the crime of homicide. However, in the context of these security operations[36], OHCHR documented cases of extrajudicial executions carried out by security forces in poor neighbourhoods. Since the beginning of 2018, the security operations of the FAES, created to combat drug trafficking and criminal organizations, have replaced the security operations called “Operations for the Liberation of the People” implemented from 2015 to 2017.[37] Interviewees consistently referred to the FAES as a "death squad" or an "extermination group." According to NGO reports, the FAES are responsible for hundreds of violent deaths[38].

47. OHCHR interviewed the relatives of 20 young men killed by the FAES from June 2018 to April 2019. All described a similar modus operandi. The FAES would arrive in black vans without license plates and would block access points in the area. They were dressed in black, without any personal identification, with balaclavas covering their faces. They would also carry long weapons. The families of the victims described how the FAES broke into their homes, seized their belongings and used gender-based violence against women and girls, including forced nudity. The FAES would separate the young men from other family members before shooting them. According to their relatives, almost all the victims had received one or more shots in the chest.

48. In each case, the witnesses reported how the FAES manipulated the crime scene and the evidence. They would have planted weapons and drugs and would have fired their weapons at the walls or into the air to insinuate a confrontation and demonstrate that the victim had "resisted authority." In many cases, the FAES took the victims to the hospital, even though they were already dead, apparently for the purpose of manipulating the bodies and modifying the crime scene. In some cases, the authorities declared that the victims were criminals before the corresponding official investigation had concluded.

49. The authorities classify violent deaths resulting from security operations as “resisting authority”. The number of these deaths is unusually high. In 2018, the government recorded 5,287 violent deaths in this category,[39] while the NGO Observatorio Venezolano de la Violencia (OVV) reported at least 7,523 violent deaths in this category.[40] Between January 1 and May 19, 2019, the Government reported 1,569 violent deaths due to "resistance to authority."[41] The OVV reported at least 2,124 of those deaths between January and May 2019.[42] Information analyzed by OHCHR indicates that many of these violent deaths may constitute extrajudicial executions.

50. Given the profile of the victims, the modus operandi of the security operations and the fact that the FAES often maintain a presence in the communities after the operation is over, OHCHR is concerned that the authorities may be using the FAES and other security forces as an instrument to instill fear in the population and maintain social control.

51. In addition, OHCHR documented the cases of six young men executed by the FAES in retaliation for their role in anti-government protests in 2019. These extrajudicial executions took place during illegal house searches after the demonstrations and followed the same modus operandi described previously.

IV. Effective access to justice and adequate reparation for victims

52. The Government has recognized that there is a problem of access to justice for all people and has asked the OHCHR to help them resolve this issue. According to the Government, as of June 2019, 44 people were detained and 33 arrest warrants had been issued against other people for their alleged responsibility for the deaths that occurred during the 2017 and 2019 demonstrations. Five members of the FAES have been sentenced. for frustrated homicide, improper use of an organic weapon and simulation of a punishable act, for events that occurred in 2018. In addition, 388 members of the FAES are being investigated for the crimes of homicide, cruel treatment and home invasion committed between 2017 and 2019.

53. Most of the victims of the human rights violations indicated in this report have not had effective access to justice and adequate reparation. According to the interviewees, few people file complaints for fear of reprisals and lack of trust in the justice system. When they do, authorities fail to investigate or conduct prompt, effective, thorough, independent, impartial, and transparent investigations.

54. For example, the families of those who died during the massive protests of 2017 continue to face widespread obstacles to their rights to truth, justice, and reparation, with most investigations still lacking. In addition, families, mainly women, have been threatened and harassed by the intelligence services and the police, and some have been forced to leave the country. The families of the men killed during FAES operations have also not received justice. They have faced multiple obstacles, including the reluctance of prosecutors to receive their complaints, and the denial of access to information and protection measures and psychosocial support.

55. Factors of impunity identified in 2018 continue to exist, including the lack of cooperation of the security forces and the armed forces with investigations, the manipulation of crime scenes and evidence by security forces, undue delays in judicial proceedings, high turnover of prosecutors and judges, as well as the de facto immunity of superior officers. The lack of independence and corruption in the judiciary are also major obstacles faced by victims in their search for justice and redress.

56. The Public Ministry has regularly failed to comply with its obligation to investigate and prosecute those responsible for the events and the Ombudsman has remained silent in the face of human rights violations. None of these institutions, nor the Government or the police, provide protection to victims and witnesses of human rights violations. In addition, the Attorney General has participated in a public rhetoric of stigmatization and discrediting of the opposition and those who criticize the Government, thus violating the principle of presumption of innocence.

57. Women are often at the forefront of the struggle for truth, justice and reparation. They monitor and participate in criminal proceedings and investigations, often in a hostile environment. They stated that they had been threatened, mistreated and insulted by public and judicial officials. These women face social exclusion due to public shame and stigmatization. In addition to seeking justice, these women often become primary caregivers, take on additional dependents, and/or become breadwinners.

58. Almost two years after its creation, the Commission for Truth, Justice, Peace and Public Tranquility has not published its report on the political violence that took place between 1999 and 2017. The Commission has awarded monetary compensation and has provided legal, psychological, medical assistance and social protection measures to 107 relatives of 50 victims who died during the 2017 protests. However, in the absence of an impartial process of seeking truth, justice and reparation, the families interviewed by the OHCHR see financial support as an attempt to buy their silence. According to the Government, as of May 29, 2019, 193 people detained for their participation in protests had been released on parole based on the Commission's recommendations.

V. Groups at risk

A. Indigenous Peoples

59. Indigenous peoples constitute 2.5 per cent of the population of Venezuela and there are more than 50 indigenous groups[46]. Individually, they face the same human rights challenges as the general population, often disproportionately and/or differentially. They also face challenges to their collective rights as indigenous peoples.

60. The humanitarian situation has disproportionately harmed the economic and social rights of many indigenous peoples, especially their rights to a decent standard of living, including the right to food, and their right to health. The closure of Venezuela's borders[47] had serious consequences for indigenous groups whose traditional territories extend on both sides of the border, such as the Wayuu.

61. There are violations of the collective rights of indigenous peoples to their traditional lands, territories and resources. They have lost control of their lands, including due to militarization by state agents. Their presence has caused violence and insecurity in their territories in recent years, in addition to the presence of organized criminal gangs and armed groups.

62. The extraction of minerals, especially in the states of Amazonas and Bolívar, including the region of the Orinoco Mining Arc, has given rise to violations of various collective rights, among others the rights to maintain customs, traditional ways of life and a spiritual relationship with his land. Mining also causes serious environmental and health damage, such as increased malaria and pollution of waterways. It has a differentiated effect on indigenous women and girls, who are at higher risk of being trafficked. Failure to consult indigenous peoples about these activities constitutes a violation of their right to consultation.

63. OHCHR documented seven deaths of indigenous peoples in violent circumstances in 2019. Indigenous authorities and leaders, including women, are frequently subjected to threats and attacks by state agents, which affects their right to self determination. In Bolívar state, Pemón communities that oppose the government, particularly indigenous authorities and leaders, face selective repression by state agents.

64. In February 2019, violent incidents occurred in Pemón territory in the context of the possible entry of aid from nearby Brazil. However, they did not occur in isolation, but in the midst of tension between the Government and the Pemón community, which denounces a growing insecurity, as shown by the deaths caused last year.

65. On February 22, soldiers opened fire on members of the Pemón community of Kumaracapay, killing three and wounding 12. During these events, four soldiers were held by the Pemon, and reported having suffered mistreatment. On February 23, in and around the city of Santa Elena, the GNB used excessive force against people, both indigenous and non-indigenous, including people heading to the border to receive aid. Witnesses described attacks and chaos that lasted all day and part of the night, in which the GNB fired indiscriminately from tanks at close range and attacks were launched on the hospital. Due to the lack of medicines and supplies, the injured people were transferred to a Brazilian hospital 200 kilometers away, where surgeries were performed on many of them, who have months of rehabilitation ahead of them. OHCHR confirmed that seven people were killed (four indigenous and three non-indigenous) and 26 were injured by gunfire from military forces. At least 63 people (indigenous and non-indigenous) were detained. The detainees were subjected to ill-treatment. OHCHR is concerned about witness statements suggesting that many more people may have been killed. It is also concerned about reports of a possible mass grave, which warrants further investigation. The State has not yet launched an independent and impartial investigation into the incidents.

66. During these events, military forces took control of the airport of the Pemón community of Maurak, which until then had been under indigenous control. Maurak and two other communities remain militarized at the time of writing this report.

67. These events forced at least 966 Pemones to flee to Brazil[48], and most of the people interviewed said they would not return for fear of being persecuted. The events and the subsequent displacement have caused irreparable damage to the Pemon, who have suffered violations of their individual and collective rights, which concern their customs, their territory and self-determination.

B. Migrants and refugees

68. The number of people who have been forced to leave Venezuela has increased dramatically since 2018, reaching more than 4 million by June 6, 2019.[49] Colombia hosts the largest number of people, followed by Peru, Chile, Argentina, Ecuador and Brazil.

69. Violations of the rights to food and health are the main factors. Many people seek protection of their right to live with dignity. Other factors are violence and insecurity, the collapse of basic services and the deterioration of the education system. In the case of women, the lack of access to prenatal and postnatal health care and the insufficiency of protection mechanisms against domestic violence are added. Politically motivated persecution is also forcing many Venezuelans to apply for asylum.[50] Children and older adults are the ones who often stay in the country, with grandmothers assuming the burden of care.

70. The violations of economic and social rights that drive migration also affect the conditions in which people leave the country, the way they move and the situations of vulnerability they face during migration. Migrants may already be in a precarious state of health, which worsens when they have difficulties accessing health in receiving countries. Furthermore, regardless of their previous socioeconomic status, migrants leave with little or no savings. Some people lack the resources to travel by bus and have no choice but to walk long distances. These “walkers” undertake physically strenuous journeys, in the course of which they are exposed to harsh weather conditions, lack of adequate shelter, food, clean water and sanitation. These people are also subjected to armed robbery and other abuses. Many of them are under pressure to send home food, medicine and money.

71. The situations of vulnerability that are generated in Venezuela are aggravated by the problems that migrants face in transit and destination countries, such as the lack of regular migrant status, undignified living conditions, labor exploitation, discrimination and xenophobia. These vulnerability factors, combined with hypersexualized stereotypes, increase the exposure of migrant women, adolescents and girls to trafficking, sexual exploitation and other forms of gender-based violence during the journey and at the destination.

72. Venezuelans encounter obstacles in obtaining or legalizing documentation, which violates their right to leave their own country and their right to have an identity. These obstacles also have a negative impact on the right to acquire a nationality and the right to live in a family and impede family reunification, regular entry and residence, as well as the ability to access education, health services and a job. decent. Migrants who leave or return to Venezuelan territory are often victims of extortion and searches, especially at the hands of the GNB. In addition, border closures and additional travel requirements to transit and destination countries force migrants to use unofficial crossing points and thus increase the risk of abuse. According to information from the Government, between 2017 and 2019, the Public Ministry has registered 85 complaints against officials of the Administrative Service of Identification, Migration and Immigration; 196 officials are being investigated, 87 have been charged and 34 convicted, all for corruption.

73. According to information provided by the Government, since 2018, 14,070 Venezuelan men and women have returned to the country as part of the “Vuelve a la Patria” plan.[51] Violations of human rights, including the right to food and health, generate protection needs based on international human rights law and standards, including obligations related to non-return. In addition, these violations create situations of vulnerability that characterize the migration process in all its stages and that require the protection of human rights.

SAW. Conclusions Report of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights

74. OHCHR considers that there are reasonable grounds to believe that serious violations of economic and social rights, including the rights to food and health, have been committed in Venezuela. The Government refused to acknowledge the scale of the crisis until recently and failed to take appropriate action. As the economic crisis worsened, the authorities began to use social programs in a discriminatory manner, for political reasons, and as an instrument of social control. The recent economic sanctions are aggravating the economic crisis, which will ultimately increase the negative impact on the population's enjoyment of economic and social rights.

75. For more than a decade, Venezuela has adopted and implemented a series of laws, policies and practices that have restricted democratic space, weakened public institutions and undermined the independence of the judiciary. Although these measures have been adopted with the declared purpose of preserving public order and national security against alleged internal and external threats, they have increased the militarization of State institutions and the use of the civilian population in intelligence and defense tasks.

76. All this has allowed the Government to commit numerous human rights violations. The authorities have particularly targeted certain individuals and groups, including members of the political opposition and those perceived to be threats to the government for their ability to articulate critical positions and mobilize others. This selective repression manifests itself in a host of human rights violations, which may amount to politically motivated persecution. These violations require further investigation to determine the relevant State responsibility and individual criminal responsibility.

77. Thousands of people, mainly young men, have been killed in alleged clashes with state forces in recent years. There are reasonable grounds to believe that many of these deaths constitute extrajudicial executions carried out by the security forces, in particular the FAES. OHCHR is concerned that the authorities may be using the FAES, and possibly other security forces, as part of a policy of social control. These violent deaths require an immediate investigation to ensure the responsibility of the perpetrators and guarantees of non-repetition.

78. Venezuelan indigenous peoples are subject to serious violations of their individual and collective rights. OHCHR is particularly concerned about reports of threats and acts of violence against indigenous authorities and leaders and the selective repression of Pemon who oppose the Government. More research is needed on the rights of indigenous peoples, with special attention to the repression of indigenous peoples and the violations of their collective rights to land, territories and resources.

79. The State has systematically denied the rights of victims of human rights violations to truth, justice and reparation. Impunity has allowed human rights violations to recur, emboldened perpetrators, and sidelined victims. OHCHR is concerned that, if the situation does not improve, the unprecedented exodus of Venezuelan migrants and refugees will continue to increase and that the conditions of those who remain in the country will worsen.

VII. Recommendations Report of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights

80. OHCHR calls on the Government of Venezuela to immediately:

(a) Take all necessary measures to ensure the availability and accessibility of food, water, essential medicines and health care services, including comprehensive preventive health care programs, paying particular attention to maternal and child services, including sexual and reproductive health care;

(b) Immediately take measures to cease, correct and prevent human rights violations, in particular serious violations, such as torture and extrajudicial executions.

(c) Carry out prompt, effective, thorough, independent, impartial and transparent investigations into human rights violations, including the deaths of indigenous people, and bring those responsible to justice;

(d) Release all persons arbitrarily deprived of their liberty;

(e) Stop, publicly condemn, punish and prevent all acts of persecution and selective repression for political reasons, including stigmatizing rhetoric and smear campaigns;

(f) Adopt effective measures to protect human rights defenders and media professionals;

(g) Cease all intimidation and attacks against indigenous peoples, including their leaders, and guarantee their protection and take all necessary measures to protect their individual and collective rights, including their right to land;

(h) Stop and prevent excessive use of force during demonstrations;

(i) Disband the FAES and establish an impartial and independent national mechanism, with the support of the international community, to investigate extrajudicial executions carried out in the course of security operations, ensure that those responsible are held accountable, as well as that the victims are repaired;

(j) Adopt effective measures to restore the independence of the judicial system and guarantee the impartiality of the Office of the Attorney General and the Ombudsman;

(k) Guarantee the right of victims to file remedies and obtain reparations with a gender-sensitive approach, as well as their protection against intimidation and reprisals;

(l) Guarantee the right to identity and documentation to all people, including children;

(m) Accept and facilitate the establishment of a permanent OHCHR office in the country.

81. In addition, OHCHR calls on the Government to:

(a) Regularly publish comprehensive health and nutrition data, disaggregated by sex, age, ethnicity and place of residence, which can be used, inter alia, to design and implement a comprehensive humanitarian response to the crisis;

(b) Allocate the maximum possible amount of available resources to the gradual realization of economic and social rights in a transparent and accountable manner that allows expenditures to be assessed;

(c) Authorize free access to information of public interest;

(d) Ensure that all social programs are implemented in a transparent, non-politicized and non-discriminatory manner, with the application of effective oversight and accountability measures;

(e) Increase vaccination coverage against preventable diseases and take adequate measures to control outbreaks of communicable diseases;

(f) Prioritize measures to reduce early pregnancies and ensure that all plans related to sexual and reproductive rights contain measurable indicators and a monitoring mechanism;

(g) Revoke media closures and end other censorship measures against the media; guarantee access to the Internet and social networks, including news websites, and the impartiality of official bodies in the allocation of radio spectrum frequencies;

(h) Disarm and dismantle the pro-government civilian armed groups (the so-called “armed groups”) and guarantee the investigation of their crimes;

(i) Protect people, including those who are migrating, from abuse, corruption and extortion by State agents;

(j) Ratify the Optional Protocol to the Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment and the International Convention for the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearance.

82. The Human Rights Council could:

Request OHCHR to focus on ensuring accountability for human rights violations and abuses in Venezuela, including through increased monitoring, documentation, analysis and public reporting on the situation of human rights.

Note: This report belongs exclusively to OHCHR

Responses