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UN Reviews Venezuela’s Poor Human Rights Record

Recommendations Should Focus on Judicial Independence, Free Elections, End to Repression

Delegates sit at the opening of the 41th session of the Human Rights Council, at the European headquarters of the United Nations in Geneva, Switzerland, June 24, 2019. © 2019 Magali Girardin/Keystone via AP

On January 25, United Nations Human Rights Council members will review Venezuela’s abysmal human rights record during its Universal Periodic Review (UPR). The review presents an opportunity to expose Venezuela’s authorities’ blatant disregard for fundamental rights and outline essential recommendations it needs to adopt to comply with its international obligations.

Under the UPR process, each country’s human rights record is subject to a peer review by other states every four years. Venezuela has failed to implement most recommendations it received following UPR examinations in 2011 and 2016.

Ahead of this year’s review, Human Rights Watch has submitted a summary of human rights conditions in Venezuela with recommendations to restore the rule of law and implement reforms to protect rights. The Nicolás Maduro regime’s brutal repression continues, with security forces and armed pro-government groups committing egregious abuses. Authorities harass and prosecute independent journalists and civil society organizations working to address the country’s ongoing human rights and humanitarian emergency, which has left millions of Venezuelans unable to access basic health care and adequate nutrition and rendered the country ill-equipped to deal with the Covid-19 pandemic. More than 6 million Venezuelans have fled the country, generating the largest migration crisis in Latin America.

The United Nations Independent International Fact-Finding Mission on Venezuela concluded that it was reasonable to believe crimes against humanity had been committed in Venezuela, and that judicial authorities, complicit in the abuses, had perpetuated impunity. In November 2021, International Criminal Court prosecutor Karim Khan announced his decision to open an investigation into possible crimes against humanity.

During Venezuela’s UPR, states should pressure the Maduro regime to:

  • Immediately and unconditionally release all political prisoners and end arbitrary arrests and abuse of dissidents.
  • Reform the Bolivarian National Police, including dissolving the special police force Special Actions Force of Venezuela (Fuerza de Acciones Especiales, FAES).
  • Overhaul the judiciary to reinstate judicial independence.
  • End censorship and abandon its systematic campaign against independent journalists, human rights defenders, and civil society organizations.
  • Allow the full deployment of all humanitarian organizations.
  • Ensure conditions for free and fair elections with independent international oversight.
  • Promptly and thoroughly investigate all allegations of human rights violations since 2014, looking into criminal responsibility of those who committed the abuses and of high-level officials who knew or should have known they were occurring.

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