He High Commissioner for Human Rights urged this Wednesday that Venezuela “fully respect due process, and that it adopt measures to prevent and punish attacks, intimidation and criminalization of people who express their dissent”, in relation to the presidential elections that will take place next year .
Volker Türk stressed that the upcoming electoral processes in Venezuela must be transparent, inclusive and participatory, and urged that all undue restrictions on the right to participate be lifted in public affairs.
“Reports on obstacles to free participation in political affairs, including the administrative disqualification of members of the opposition from holding public office, must be urgently addressed,” he stressed.
Similarly, he assured that the unit under his charge monitors the evolution of events around the appointment of a new National Electoral Council from the perspective of international human rights standards.
Visits to detention centers
On the other hand, the High Commissioner reported that the Venezuelan authorities continue to facilitate visits to civilian detention centers and the interviews with the detainees to the personnel of his Office, who were also able to visit two military detention centers.
In addition, they had access to thirteen prosecution files and three judicial hearings, and had direct exchanges with prosecutors, which allowed to formulate precise recommendations to bring investigations and trials more in line with international human rights standards.
Homicides and arbitrary arrests
The High Commissioner described as “an important step towards justice and accountability” that Venezuela signed a Memorandum of Understanding with the prosecutor of the International Criminal Court to establish a presence in the country.
In addition, it indicated that the number of documented homicides committed by State agents, as well as the complaints of torture and ill-treatment, continue to decrease.
“Official reports indicate that in 2022, 362 officials were accused, and 47 convicted of torture and ill-treatment. The Office has received information on a further 91 complaints of torture filed by victims and their representatives since 2018, and has urged the authorities to ensure adequate follow-upwithout exceptions and with total transparency”, he added.
On the other hand, Türk referred to the long delays in investigating deaths that occurred during protests that took place in 2014, 2017 and 2019. “Of the 101 deaths that my Office documented in the context of security operations, only eight have been brought to trial,” he explained.
He also reiterated his call for that all persons detained illegally or arbitrarily be released.
Threats to activists and dissident voices
The High Commissioner pointed out the importance of the authorities applying the recommendations regarding the full enjoyment of civic space.
The Office documented threats and stigmatization of activists from civil society, members of opposition parties, including 67 incidents allegedly involving state officials.
Also Restrictions on public information continue, as well as on freedom of opinion and expression. “The Office continues to document cases of undue restrictions on the registration of NGOs working on human rights issues,” she explained.
In this sense, Türk declared that Venezuela must reform the legislation to adapt it to international standards, in order to reinforce freedom of association.
right to protest
During the reporting period, protests continued, often centered around demands for economic and social rights, such as better working conditions and wages, the High Commissioner said.
In this sense, he made reference to several cases of arrest of union leaders and peasant leaders when protesting for labor rights or denouncing corruption.
“All Venezuelans have the right to assemble peacefully. I ask the government and employer organizations to respect these fundamental rights and engage in serious dialogue with unions and workershe declared.
“Measures are needed to protect these rural leaders and investigate all these alleged crimes.”
Gender equality and rights of the LGBTIQ+ community
Regarding gender equality, the Attorney General’s Office also agreed to develop a protocol for the investigation of femicides, in response to an important recommendation of the Committee for the Elimination of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW). In addition, Türk called for other measures to be adopted, such as the modification of the restrictive legislation on abortion.
The High Commissioner welcomed the Supreme Court ruling of March 2023, which decriminalizes same-sex relations in the Code of Military Justice and encouraged that new measures be adopted to promote the rights of LGBTIQ+ people.
Rights of indigenous peoples
The Office documented threats and intimidation by armed groups and non-state criminals against indigenous defenders who protect their territory from drug trafficking and mining.
“There is a clear need to reactivate the process of demarcation of indigenous territories, emphasizing self-demarcation. I welcome the recent commitments by my Office and the Ministry of Indigenous Peoples to work together on realizing the rights of indigenous peoples,” Türk stated.
Finally, the High Commissioner made reference to the sectoral sanctions imposed on Venezuela, which “continue to aggravate the country’s human rights problems and affect Venezuelansincluding access to medicine and adequate health care,” he said, declaring that it is necessary to lift them.
Volker Türk stressed that it is important support all efforts leading to an inclusive dialogue and effective among Venezuelans and urged full application of the agreements reached, including the agreement social table.
“Rebuilding trust and a cohesive social contract for the future is the way to go,” he concluded.