During its UPR in 2011, the Venezuelan government noted key recommendations on critically important human rights problems, but this has meant nothing in practice. In fact, the in-country situation has gotten dramatically worse since then.
In 2011, the government noted a recommendation to “fight against misuse of power by security forces.” In 2014, it responded to massive anti-government protests with brutal force, held detainees incommunicado, and committed abuses against them, including severe beatings, electric shocks or burns. Protesters continue to be subject to prosecution for participating in peaceful demonstrations.
In 2011, the government noted recommendations to address the lack of judicial independence in Venezuela and to stop using the justice system to silence critics. Since then, it has arbitrarily prosecuted opposition leaders, activists, journalists, and ordinary citizens who publicly criticized the government. It also took advantage of its control over the Supreme Court to strike down almost every law adopted in 2016 by the opposition majority in the National Assembly.
In 2011, the government noted recommendations to respect free speech. Since then, security forces have detained, interrogated, and confiscated the equipment of journalists. Authorities have filed criminal defamation suits against critical outlets, and taken international news channels off the air. All of this has made self-censorship a serious problem in today’s Venezuela.
Despite its commitment in 2011 to protect the right to health, and receiving numerous recommendations to the same effect during the second UPR cycle, the government has failed to ensure that basic medicines and supplies are available, leading to a severe humanitarian crisis that is without precedent the country’s history. Shortages of medicines and food have made it extremely difficult for many Venezuelans to obtain essential medical care and meet their families’ basic needs, including having access to an adequate nutrition.
The Venezuelan government needs to hear that the international community will not tolerate its abuses or its open disregard for the fundamental human rights that the UPR process is meant to protect. This second cycle review is an opportunity to make this clear, and one which all states should seize.