How Can the UN Reports Linking Venezuelan High-Ranking Officials to State Repression Be Useful

These new reports by the UN Independent International Fact-Finding Mission on Venezuela highlight how high-ranking Venezuelan officials are connected to repression by government security forces against political dissidents

Photo: Sofía Jaimes Barreto

Despite the Venezuelan government trying to avoid international scrutiny, two reports by the UN Independent International Fact-Finding Mission on Venezuela (FFMV), under the framework of the 51st Session of the Human Rights Council, showing that the human rights crisis in the country persists, or that, pretty much the same, no advances parrotted by the government are credible. 

According to the Mission, the human rights situation in Venezuela “is still serious.” The reports confirm that crimes against humanity are still being committed and one of the reports points at the people responsible for the crimes and their chains of command, for the first time. 

What are the reports and what do they add to previous reports?

The first one is Crimes against humanity committed through the State’s intelligence services: structures and individuals involved in the implementation of the plan to repress opposition to the Government. It dives deep into the repression mechanism perpetrated by state security bodies: how they select and train officers to commit abuses and torture in different ways; where they take place and in what conditions are those spaces, even in clandestine torture houses; what chains of command are involved, how they operate and who gives the orders that are executed. 

The names that are signaled out confirm that in Venezuela there’s a system designed and deployed to repress and used to cement the regime’s control. Marta Valiñas, the president of the Mission, says that the people involved “showed that violent acts were disconnected and weren’t perpetrated by individuals at random.” 

The people who were directly responsibilized for this were Nicolás Maduro, Diosdado Cabello, Delcy Rodríguez, and Tareck El Aissami. The chains of command that were confirmed include seven chiefs of intelligence at Sebin and Dgcim: Rafael Franco Quintero, Hannover Guerrero, Alexander Granko Arteaga, Iván Hernández Dala, Ronny González Montesinos, Carlos Calderón Chirinos and Gustavo González López.

For lawyer Alí Daniels, the director of NGO Acceso a la Justicia, this report shows how in Venezuela chains of command are not investigated and how mechanisms to achieve impunity for repression are established, since the highest instances of the State are involved:

“The report reveals all the official propaganda about the improvement of justice, and it shows that there is no independent and impartial judiciary that judges these crimes.”

Clara del Campo, in charge of Amnesty International for Venezuela, warns that the reforms of laws and regulations that may point to a more functional justice system cannot be credible, because according to the report: “the perpetrators of crimes are the same authorities.”

With this report, it is becoming quite clear that repression is not a thing of the past, but that it is a systematic and generalized State policy that survives because it is protected by a judicial system more similar to a mechanism of persecution.

The second report, The human rights situation in the Arco Minero del Orinoco region and other areas of the Bolívar state, covers the systematization of violations and crimes against the populations in the gold extraction zones, both by state officials and irregular groups. The report offers more data on the repression of indigenous people in 2019. 

Where did they find the information, considering that the Mission doesn’t have access to Venezuelan territory?

This is not a compilation of news or comments on social media. Both reports add up to 246 confidential interviews with victims and relatives, and former officials, through telephone calls or video calls with a secure connection, and during visits to the Venezuelan borders. Likewise, related files and documents were analyzed. One of the key testimonies was that of the former director of Sebin, Manuel Cristopher Figuera.

How do these reports help renew the Mission’s Mandate?

The Mission was created in 2019 to help victims seek and obtain justice, as well as to dissuade the Venezuelan State from committing further human rights violations. The 2022 reports, as well as the oral updates, gather evidence that violations continue to be committed, that the structural flaws that facilitate such violations persist, and that there is no internal mechanism capable of dispensing justice. So as long as the reasons for the creation of the Mission persist, it must continue its mandate, despite the permanent evasions of the government to avoid international scrutiny.

Furthermore, the Mission is a safe space for victims to demand their rights to truth, justice, reparation, and guarantees of non-repetition, and thus to inform the international community with certainty about the human rights situation in Venezuela through an independent international mechanism.

No less important is that, since Venezuela does not participate in the Organization of American States, its oversight falls on the UN Human Rights Council, and each report of the Mission serves as input to monitor the situation in the country. Likewise, in Venezuela, the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (which Michelle Bachelet just left) monitors the case of Venezuela, so that the work of the Mission complements that of the High Commissioner, which is to cooperate technically and on the ground with the Venezuelan State.

Is This Report on Repression Useful to the ICC Investigation?

Yes. Although it must be clear that, at this time, the investigation of Venezuela I by prosecutor Karim Khan is on hold following the Venezuelan government’s request, earlier this year, for the ICC to return the cases to Venezuela so they could be prosecuted according to internal justice. The ICC Prosecutor’s Office is standing by for one of the Court’s chambers to decide whether or not the Prosecutor’s Office should continue the investigation.

But, as Ignacio Jovtis of the Clooney Foundation for Justice says, the Mission’s document is valuable information, because it demonstrates what the ICC is investigating, above all “who are criminally responsible, who could be called to testify before an ICC tribunal and what arrest warrants or what types of orders could be issued by the Court’s Prosecutor’s Office by the time the trial begins… The timing of this report is very good, so it is likely that the Prosecutor’s Office will take it into account.”

How Are the Reports Tied to the Dialogue? 

They are not. However, if the goal is a real and peaceful solution, the negotiations should include respect for human rights based on the recommendations both in the reports of the Mission, as well as those of the High Commissioner and Venezuelan civil organizations.