By Stephanie Nebehay
GENEVA (Reuters) – Venezuela’s security forces and allied groups have committed systematic human rights violations, including executions and torture, which amount to crimes against humanity, United Nations (UN) investigators said on Wednesday.
There are reasonable grounds for believing that President Nicolás Maduro and his interior and defense ministers ordered or contributed to the crimes documented in the report to silence the opposition, they said.
Most of the illegal executions by state agents have not been prosecuted in Venezuela, where the rule of law and democratic institutions have collapsed, UN investigators added.
The UN fact-finding mission said that other national jurisdictions and the International Criminal Court (ICC), which began a preliminary examination of Venezuela in 2018, should study the opening of cases and that it will share its database, which contains the names of authorities identified by the victims.
“The mission found reasonable grounds to believe that, since 2014, Venezuelan authorities and security forces have planned and executed serious human rights violations, some of which – including arbitrary executions and the systematic use of torture – amount to crimes against humanity, “said panel chairwoman Marta Valinas in a statement.
Maduro’s leftist government did not immediately respond to the report, which was based on more than 270 interviews with victims, witnesses, former officials and lawyers, as well as confidential documents.
“Far from being isolated acts, these crimes were coordinated and committed according to state policies, with the knowledge or direct support of high-ranking commanding officers and government officials,” said Valinas.
The mission found that military, police and intelligence officers committed extrajudicial executions, including that of the former head of the National Intelligence Service, General Christopher Figuera.
The panel said there were reasonable grounds for believing that the intelligence service forged or planted evidence on victims and that its agents tortured detainees. One of them was opposition parliamentarian Fernando Albán, who the government said committed suicide in 2018, but whose party said he was murdered.
Created by the Human Rights Council to investigate violations starting in 2014, the panel did not have access to Venezuela.