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Accountability key to addressing rights crisis in Venezuela HRW statement on High Commissioner’s oral update

Venezuela's Foreign Minister Jorge Arreaza Montserrat listens during the opening of the 36th session of the Human Rights Council, at the European headquarters of the United Nations in Geneva on September 11, 2017.  © 2017 Laurent Gillieron/Keystone via AP
Thank you, Mr. President,

We thank the High Commissioner for her oral update, which is both timely and sobering, and confirms that the human rights situation in Venezuela remains dire and that grave violations are ongoing.

It is unfortunate that the delegation of Venezuela began its response today by rejecting a Human Rights Council resolution, and dismissing all critique of the human rights situation in the country, suggesting it is politically-motivated, reflective of double standards, and based on lies and false statements. 

For the situation in any country to improve, the first step is for the state concerned to acknowledge its human rights challenges and commit to addressing them. What we did not hear in Venezuela’s statement today was any acceptance of government responsibility for extrajudicial killings, arbitrary detention, enforced disappearances, torture or violation of the rights to health, food or education. The Ambassador’s statement that “there is no humanitarian crisis in Venezuela” is disconnected from reality.

We are concerned at the lack of any progress towards country visits by a representative range of UN Special Procedures.

While any engagement with OHCHR is to be welcomed, it is not an end in itself. The success of engagement can only be measured by results, and in particular what concrete steps Venezuela has taken to implement the recommendations in the High Commissioner’s report, end violations, advance human rights, and hold those responsible to account.

Engagement and accountability are complementary, not mutually exclusive. Accountability is an essential element of any efforts to resolving the rights crisis in the country.

We welcome the recent appointment of members of the Fact-finding Mission. Venezuela chose to run for HRC membership, and was elected by a narrow margin. Council membership carries obligations – the most basic of which is to cooperate with Council mechanisms. If Venezuela refuses to cooperate with the Fact-finding Mission, it is in contempt of its responsibilities as a member, and should face consequences.

We look forward to further updates and reporting by the High Commissioner, including on progress towards creating a full-fledged country office, Venezuela’s degree of cooperation with the Fact-finding Mission and UN Special Procedures, and implementation in full of the recommendations in the High Commissioner’s report, including meaningful accountability.

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