Dear Minister Nin Novoa,
I am writing to respectfully urge you to adhere to the joint statement on Venezuela’s crisis delivered by Peru on July 6, 2018, at the United Nations Human Rights Council. The statement, which was a regional initiative, has already been signed by 53 states from around the globe and is open for signature until Friday, July 20. It is disappointing that Uruguay, a country that has historically been an ally in the protection and promotion of human rights at the United Nations, has not yet signed on to this initiative.
As you are aware, the situation in Venezuela continues to dramatically worsen. The exodus of around 2 million Venezuelans, mostly into neighboring countries, the humanitarian crisis that severely undermines the ability of many Venezuelans to feed their families and have access to the most basic healthcare, together with the brutal crackdown on dissent, warrant a strong multilateral response.
These are precisely the issues that have been documented in the damning report on Venezuela published by the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) during the June Human Rights Council session.
In its recent report, the OHCHR highlighted that, since July 2017, Venezuelan intelligence and security forces continued to arbitrarily detain members of civil society, political opponents, and other voices that criticized the government or publicly expressed discontent. More than 12,000 people have been arbitrarily detained since 2014, with at least 570 people, including 35 children, detained between August 2017 and April 30, 2018. Many who have been detained have been held incommunicado and have suffered cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment, which in some cases amounted to torture. The techniques used included electric shocks, severe beatings, asphyxiation, and sexual abuse including rape.
Security forces have summarily executed people during security raids. Between July 2015 and March 2017, 505 people including 24 children, were killed by security forces, including some cases the OHCHR concluded were extrajudicial executions.
The Venezuelan government has actively blocked attempts to hold perpetrators accountable, creating a climate of impunity. In February, the International Criminal Court prosecutor Fatou Bensouda announced that her office was opening a preliminary examination into the use of excessive force, including allegations of killings and unlawful detentions.
The July 6 joint statement is the first clear-cut opportunity for governments to stand up to the Venezuelan government’s abuses at the United Nations level since the 2017 brutal crackdown on dissent. Uruguay should stand firmly apart from the dwindling number of governments that are still willing to defend Maduro’s government at the United Nations.
It is critical to keep up the multilateral pressure on the Venezuelan government, so it ends the ongoing abuses against its population. We hope that Uruguay will adhere to the statement and join the list of democratic governments that are taking decisive steps to restore human rights and the rule of law in Venezuela.
José Miguel Vivanco
Human Rights Watch