The UN rights chief warned Thursday that many of the thousands killed in Venezuela security operations since 2018 likely constituted “executions”, and urged Caracas to dissolve its special police force.
UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet, who visited Venezuela last month, pointed out in a fresh report that thousands of people, mostly young men, had been killed in alleged confrontations with state forces in the country in recent years.
“The incidence of alleged extrajudicial killings by security forces… has been shockingly high,” Bachelet’s office said in a statement.
In 2018, the government registered 5,287 killings, purportedly for “resistance to authority” during such operations, between January 1 and May 19 this year, another 1,569 similar killings were registered.
“There are reasonable grounds to believe that many of these killings constitute extrajudicial executions committed by the security forces,” the report said, especially pointing a finger at Venezuela’s police special forces (FAES).
The Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) “is concerned that the authorities may be using FAES, and possibly other security forces, as part of a policy of social control. These killings warrant immediate investigation to ensure accountability of perpetrators and guarantees of non-recurrence,” the report said.
In the report, which Bachelet is set to present to the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva on Friday, she urged the government in Caracas to “dissolve FAES.”
She also urged it to “establish an impartial and independent national mechanism, with the support of the international community, to investigate extrajudicial executions during security operations, ensure accountability of perpetrators and redress for victims.”
Bachelet’s report also decried a wide range of other grave rights violations in Venezuela, which is caught in an economic crisis and a political standoff between President Nicolas Maduro’s government and National Assembly leader Juan Guaido.
The opposition leader, Guaido, declared himself interim president earlier this year and has been recognised by the United States and more than 50 other countries.
The oil-rich country is also suffering from hyperinflation and shortages of basic goods from food to medicine, a crisis that has forced millions to flee.
The report concluded that “there are reasonable grounds to believe that grave violations of economic and social rights, including the rights to food and health, have been committed in Venezuela.”
It also said that “as the economic crisis deepened, the authorities began using social programmes in a discriminatory manner, based on political grounds, and as an instrument of social control.”
The report also voiced criticism of sanctions imposed on Venezuela, saying they were “exacerbating further the effects of the economic crisis, and thus the humanitarian situation.”
Thursday’s report charged that Venezuela’s government over the past decade, and especially since 2016, had implemented a strategy “aimed at neutralising, repressing and criminalising political opponents and people critical of the government.”
In the statement, the rights office pointed to a series of laws, policies and practices in Venezuela that it said had “restricted the democratic space, dismantled institutional checks and balances, and allowed patterns of grave violations.”
The report also noted that as of May 31 this year, 793 people remained in arbitrary detention in the country and that so far this year 22 members of parliament, including Guaido, had been stripped of their parliamentary immunity.