Photo:  Twitter @UNGeneva

This Friday, the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights spoke before the UN Human Rights Council about the Venezuelan crisis, citing her staff’s technical visit to the country, the interviews held with Venezuelan refugees and migrants in Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Ecuador, Mexico, Peru and Spain; and her own visit to Caracas two weeks ago, describing in summary the intense agenda of meetings she held. Honoring the trait with which she defined herself when departing from Maiquetia (chronic optimist), she said that she has the hope that the access she was given, along with the admission of the continued presence of two HHRR officials in the country, is the announcement of “the beginning of positive engagement on the country’s many human rights issues.”

Realism takes hold

But she had to talk about her report and clarify that the “essential institutions and the rule of law in Venezuela have been profoundly eroded. The exercise of the freedom of opinion, expression, association and assembly, and the right to participate in public life, entail a risk of reprisals and repression,” connecting this with the attacks against dissidents and HHRR defenders, ranging from threats and smear campaigns to arbitrary detentions, tortures and mistreatment, sexual violence, murders and enforced disappearances. She then spoke of excessive and lethal force used against protesters, of the possible extrajudicial executions carried out by the FAES, demanding that they be investigated in depth, and about the death under state custody of Captain Rafael Acosta Arévalo (whose body hasn’t been handed over to his relatives a week later). Bachelet said: “There is a pattern of torture reports in Venezuela in the context of arbitrary detention.”

The figures

The High Commissioner denounced that we’re suffering an economic crisis, explaining it with data since 2013 (accumulated GDP contraction, inflation, income reduction) and ratified that the figures published by the Central Bank of Venezuela in May, show that the key indicators dropped long before sanctions. She explained why humanitarian assistance still isn’t enough and how the current crisis has a dramatic impact on economic, social and cultural rights, as well as on political and civil rights: “an estimated seven million people in Venezuela need humanitarian assistance: one quarter of the population,” she said. Bachelet explained that hunger and deprivation have led many to become migrants or refugees; and added her concern for the situation of indigenous communities.

What’s next?

The High Commissioner explained that among other points, the regime agreed to allow them to carry out an evaluation of the National Commission for the Prevention of Torture, including a commitment to full access to all detention centers. They will also carry out assessments of the main obstacles to access justice, and allegedly the regime will “engage more substantively with international human rights bodies,” so the agreed to accept ten visits from the Council’s Special Procedures experts over the next two years. Once again, she called for the release of all political prisoners, emphasizing that the report contains clear and concrete recommendations for the future. Before the press in Geneva, Bachelet spoke of some measures taken by the regime to “show” their commitment with human rights. None of them caused as much stir as the announcement of the release of 22 political prisoners, including journalist Braulio Jatar and judge María Lourdes Afiuni.

Denying the humanitarian crisis

After the presentation of the report before the Human Rights Council, regime Deputy Foreign Minister William Castillo spoke of the access to information that the Venezuelan State provided both Bachelet and her team (as if that was a merit!), and he did the same regarding the reception of complaints from victims, claiming that the State is working to solve them, and he also mentioned the data they gave about public policies and the “social protection” model in place since 1999. Precisely because of that, Castillo finds the report’s content incomprehensible, “dominated by selective and biased vision; a text devoid of scientific rigor with serious methodological mistakes, and it looks like a copy of previous informations,” he said, parroting the observations we commented yesterday. “We demand the correction of its content and urge her Office to act measuredly and respectfully,” he said, because “there’s no humanitarian crisis in Venezuela.”

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Reactions

Various nations expressed their concerns about the content of the High Commissioner’s report, the most common being: the shock for the murder of captain Acosta Arévalo (urging an independent investigation); the immediate release of all political prisoners (the cases of Roberto Marrero and Edgar Zambrano were mentioned several times,) even Spain spoke about the violation of the immunity of deputies. Costa Rica said that our exodus is on of the world’s biggest crises; Ecuador focused on selective persecution, repression and the excessive use of force which lead to extrajudicial executions (Australia expressed concern for this point), Brazil asked a constant monitoring of our situation; Paragua condemned the criminalization of dissidents, the communicational hegemony and the discrimination for political reasons. Colombia called for adopting all the measures and actions in favor of protecting the rights of Venezuelans, while the European Union said that they’ll continue promoting a political and peaceful solution; and the Lima Group’s member countries spoke about the urgency of attending our crisis. Peru proposed the creation of an international investigation committee and many nations urged the regime to immediately implement the recommendations in Bachelet’s report.

 

Nicolás is unwilling and unable

Feliciano Reyna, head of Acción Solidaria, said that Venezuelans only have international institutions to get protection and justice: “In Venezuela, there’s a systematic practice of repression, persecution, arbitrary detentions, enforced disappearances, torture and extrajudicial executions against those who exercise their rights,” he denounced, that’s why he spoke of the importance of ceasing and correcting the serious human rights violations “because the emergency will get worse. The Maduro government has shown that they don’t want and don’t have the capacity to solve this human drama.” Reyna requested the Human Rights Council to appoint an international investigation committee to establish responsibilities and prevent impunity. He also urged the host State to unify policies to offer real protection to Venezuelan refugees and migrants, calling for speeding up a political solution to the crisis by articulating national and international efforts.

The Supreme Tribunal of Justice confirmed the end of precautionary measure in substitution of freedom in favor of judge María Lourdes Afiuni, imprisoned for the crime of “spiritual corruption” after granting freedom on bail to banker Eligio Cedeño in 2009. Afiuni is in prison because Hugo Cháve said so in a mandatory broadcast. 

The TSJ also said that a court in Nueva Esparta reviewed the precautionary measure in substitution of freedom in favor of Braulio Jatar, who was verbally informed about the reporting regime every 15 days, with a ban on leaving Nueva Esparta state and the country. Both Afiuni and Jatar thanked Michelle Bachelet and the UN, although the end of these precautionary measures doesn’t mean full freedom.

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