Joint statement March 3, 2021
Venezuela: Maduro Must Implement UN Recommendations on Protecting Human Rights
In response to the UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights’ (OHCHR) oral update on its Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with Venezuela, Freedom House issued the following statement:
“Freedom House commends High Commissioner Michelle Bachelet’s continued efforts to address human rights abuses in Venezuela through international cooperation, yet the oral update she gave on Friday reflected the Maduro regime’s persistent lack of commitment to these processes. Venezuela’s cooperation with the Universal Human Rights Protection System, and especially with the OHCHR, must translate into concrete steps toward ending human rights abuses, beginning with its compliance with OHCHR recommendations put forth since 2017 to address structural impunity and end persistent violations of human rights,” said Gerardo Berthin, director of Latin America and Caribbean programs at Freedom House.
“To demonstrate a sincere will to cooperate in addressing the country’s crisis, Venezuela must liberate all political prisoners—and not with precautionary measures as was the case for the 12 Pemon Indigenous prisoners released on February 13—and conduct an exhaustive investigation into the death of Pemon leader Salvador Franco, who died in prison from severe and unattended health problems. Moreover, to comply with the MOU, Venezuela must also allow OHCHR officials unrestricted access to military prisons and detention centers managed by state intelligence services so they can observe judicial hearings, and allow at least nine UN Special Procedures—independent human rights experts with a formal evaluation mission—to document the country’s human rights situation. Finally, cooperation should result in an immediate end to attacks against journalists, independent media, human rights defenders, civil society organizations, and especially humanitarian organizations that seek to alleviate Venezuelans’ suffering from the country’s acute humanitarian emergency.”
In September 2020, the OHCHR renewed for one year an MOU on human rights signed with Venezuela in September 2019, despite no significant progress by the Maduro regime toward addressing the country’s human rights crisis. The agreement established a calendar during which Venezuelan authorities should have allowed at least 10 UN Special Procedures to observe firsthand the country’s human rights situation. However, by February 2021, Venezuela has allowed only one—a visit from the special rapporteur on the impact of unilateral coercive measures. To date, there are no additional visits planned. In parallel, in October 2020, the UN renewed the mandate of a Special Fact-Finding Mission for Venezuela, which will continue to investigate grave human rights abuses until at least 2022.
Meanwhile, the Maduro regime has accelerated attacks against civil society, the media, and human rights defenders, shuttering and sanctioning news outlets, and arbitrarily detaining humanitarian workers. The Special Action Forces (FAES) has carried out deadly attacks against citizens who protest the humanitarian crisis, including one in January in Caracas in which 23 people were killed.
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