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Human Rights Watch Oral Statement before the Human Rights Council on Venezuela

July 15, 2020

We thank the High Commissioner for Human Rights for her reporting on Venezuela, which confirms that Venezuelan authorities are responsible for very serious human rights violations.

Venezuela’s humanitarian emergency predates the Covid-19 pandemic. Policies and practices by Venezuelan authorities under Nicolás Maduro have long endangered the lives and health of Venezuelans. The pandemic has now exacerbated this crisis, making sufficient and apolitical humanitarian aid more crucial than ever to save lives.

Meanwhile, Covid-19 has become a convenient excuse for Maduro’s government to crack down on critics. The brutal repression continues, with security forces and armed pro-government groups committing egregious abuses including extrajudicial killings, short term enforced disappearances, arbitrary arrests, and torture. All of this, with impunity. Recently, the Supreme Court orchestrated the takeover of three opposition parties and the National Electoral Council by appointing government supporters to leadership positions, undermining Venezuelans’ rights to free and fair elections and freedom of association.

More than five million Venezuelans fled the crisis at home. Many are struggling to survive in informal economies hit hard by the pandemic. Tens of thousands have returned to Venezuela only to face harassment by authorities. Many have been forced into unsanitary and overcrowded quarantine centers where the most basic preventive measures, such as hand-washing and social distancing, are impossible.

Accountability is essential to curb abuses, and that is not possible in a country without judicial independence, as described in the high commissioner’s recent report. The creation by this Council of a Fact-Finding Mission in September 2019 to investigate egregious abuses in Venezuela was a key, welcome development. High Commissioner, given Venezuela’s refusal to cooperate with the mechanism, what are your office’s plans to share information on grave abuses you have documented with the independent experts from the Fact-Finding Mission?

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