On November 12, Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro will address the United Nations Human Rights Council at a special meeting in Geneva called at his request. Venezuela was recently reelected as a member of the council, despite its poor human rights record and failure to cooperate with international human rights monitors that should have disqualified it for such a post. Unfortunately, the council is not going to hear much about that from Maduro.
The human rights situation in Venezuela has deteriorated dramatically in recent years. Opposition politicians have been arbitrarily arrested, then prosecuted and convicted on politically motivated charges, and barred from running for office in the legislative elections scheduled for December. The government has targeted dozens of lesser-known critics, including independent media outlets and journalists, and harassed human rights defenders. Security forces have arbitrarily arrested, beaten, and tortured largely peaceful protesters without being called to account.
Not surprisingly, the government has rejected meaningful international scrutiny of its human rights record, for more than a decade forbidding the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights and UN special rapporteurs to visit Venezuela. It withdrew from the American Convention on Human Rights in 2012, depriving victims from seeking protection from the Inter-American Court of Human Rights. Venezuela also has one of the worst voting records at the Human Rights Council.
The Human Rights Council, while flawed, has been useful for exposing and addressing human rights issues worldwide. Yet this time, no country or nongovernmental group is likely to have the opportunity to take the floor to provide any balance to Maduro’s biased account of what is happening in his country.
Venezuela should not be allowed to use the council as a vehicle for self-promotion. The UN high commissioner for human rights, Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein, is expected to deliver a statement to provide some counterpoint to this one-man show. And if Maduro is opening the door, so to speak, to focus on Venezuela, other countries and human rights groups should use the opportunity as a hook to raise concerns and highlight problems in public that he will not. The Human Rights Council should no longer ignore Venezuela’s glaringly poor human rights record.