The United Nations human rights chief said on Monday that Venezuela’s security forces may have committed crimes against humanity against protesters and called for an international investigation. But Venezuela’s foreign minister defended the record of the government of President Nicolas Maduro, rejecting the allegations as “baseless”, Reuters reports:
Venezuela has been convulsed by months of demonstrations against the leftist president who critics say has plunged the oil-rich country into the worst economic crisis in its history and is turning it into a dictatorship.
“My investigation suggests the possibility that crimes against humanity may have been committed, which can only be confirmed by a subsequent criminal investigation,” Zeid Ra‘ad al Hussein told the U.N. Human Rights Council. He said the government was using criminal proceedings against opposition leaders, arbitrary detentions, excessive use of force and ill-treatment of detainees, in some cases amounting to torture.
“Dictatorship is too soft a word,” she told reporters on the sidelines of the rights council, maintaining that “Venezuela is being run by a gang of organised criminals”.
As the human rights and humanitarian crisis worsens, the UN Human Rights Council should draw inspiration from the Lima Declaration and address the situation in Venezuela as a matter of priority, said Human Rights Watch. Specifically, member states should send a clear message to the Venezuelan government that these abuses are not tolerated and those responsible of abuses will eventually be brought to justice when judicial independence is restored in the country, and call on the Maduro government to:
- End the repression and release political prisoners;
- Set a date for free and fair elections with proper independent oversight;
- Restore judicial independence and the powers of the National Assembly; and
- Immediately allow sufficient international humanitarian aid into the country.