People wearing face masks walk past a mural depicting Venezuelan president Nicolas Maduro in Caracas on April 17, 2020, amid the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak © 2020 Federico Parra / AFP

The report of the Fact-Finding Mission on Venezuela is a sobering reminder of why the mandate is so sorely needed. Concluding that there are reasonable grounds to believe crimes against humanity have been committed, the report provides a solid indictment that attributes direct responsibility to high-level authorities, including the head of state, for human rights violations that include extrajudicial executions, politically motivated detention and torture, and abuses against protesters in Venezuela.

The independent experts concluded that “most of the violations and crimes … were part of a widespread and systematic attack against a civilian population … in furtherance of a state policy.” They found that high-level authorities knew or contributed to the commission of these crimes, and “commanders and superiors knew or should have known about them” and didn’t “take measures to prevent or repress them.” The findings also expose the role of Venezuela’s judiciary in contributing to arbitrary arrests and impunity for abuses and denying justice to victims.

These conclusions highlight that these aren’t abuses by rogue officers, but rather systematic and that they implicate top officials and intelligence agents.

This is the closest victims have come to seeing any form of accountability. It is essential to extend and expand the Fact-Finding Mission’s mandate so victims can eventually exercise their right to an effective remedy.

We urge members of this Council to support the resolution renewing the Fact-Finding Mission’s mandate for two years, with the option to create a Commission of Inquiry if Venezuela refuses to respect its membership obligation of cooperation. We also support continued reporting by the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights and cooperation by Venezuelan authorities with both mechanisms. The resolution should also ensure that the Fact-Finding Mission has sufficient funding and the authority to collect, consolidate, preserve, and analyze evidence for future prosecutions or other accountability purposes, including by international justice mechanisms, to avoid impunity for the crimes under international law and gross human rights violations.