UN Mission Reports Sippenhaft, Forced Disappearances and Torture in Its Latest Report on Venezuela

The United Nations Fact-Finding Mission on Venezuela presented its fourth report on human rights violations in Venezuela. Here's what it found.

El Helicoide, a notorious modernist shopping mall-turned-torture center, in Caracas.

Following the release of Simón in Venezuelan cinemas and protests against torture in el Helicoide on Times Square, the United Nations Fact-Finding Mission on Venezuela presented today its fourth report on serious human rights violations and attacks on civil society in Venezuela. Here are the main findings:

  • Although there has been a reduction in state violence related to protests, government intolerance towards dissent and the closing of civic and democratic space have continued.
  • The Mission investigated 43 new cases of human rights violations that have affected 72 direct victims (47 men and 25 women, including a transgender person).
  • The report mentions nine deaths that could be the result of repression against real or perceived opposition folk. These cases include three deaths related to protests, four deaths of actors from civil society and two deaths in custody.
  • The three deaths related to protests happened during gasoline shortage protests between July and August 2020. The Mission has reasonable grounds to believe that the National Guard and the DGCIM police were responsible.
  • The Mission also has reasonable grounds to believe that at least five deaths happened during arbitrary detention by state authorities.
  • The United Nations also investigated two deaths in custody: that of General Raúl Isaías Baduel, a former ally of Hugo Chávez who died in SEBIN custody on October 12th, 2021 and that of Salvador Franco, an indigenous Pemón man who died on January 3rd 2021 at the El Rodeo II prison.
  • The Mission also has reasonable grounds to believe that state authorities have forcibly disappeared 14 people (ten men, four women) since 2020. The Public Ministry also knowingly delayed the official detention date or denied information to family members of detainees.
  • The Mission also denounced that the illegal practice of taking detainees to clandestine houses before placing them in official detention centers continues.
  • The Mission believes that since 2020 there have been at least 58 cases of arbitrary detentions. 53 selectively targeted opposition folk and five targeted protestors.  
  • The 53 arbitrarily arrests pertained to union leaders, human rights activists, members of NGOs, journalists, members of opposition parties, teachers and other people who expressed criticism against the Venezuelan government.
  • Relatives of suspects were also arbitrarily arrested despite a lack of evidence to justify their detentions. This practice disproportionately affected women.
  • The tortures documented by the Mission included beatings, suspension from the wrists or ankles, suffocation with bags sometimes sprayed with insecticide, sleep deprivation with the lights on through the entire day and loud music, small cells for punishment, isolation, and sexual violence.
  • Venezuelan courts have imposed ad hoc boards on unions, federations, professional associations, and political parties. These interventions, the Mission found, are especially relevant during the current electoral context.
  • The Mission also said the State has built an apparatus of “hard” and “soft” methods of repression against real or perceived opposition people. “Soft” mechanisms are backed by the latent threat of the Venezuelan State using “hard” mechanisms at any moment.
  • The Mission also considered that the Direction of Strategic Actions and Tactics (DAET) of the Bolivarian National Police, created in July 2022, is the “continuation” of the extinct Special Action Forces (FAES) – accused of extrajudicial killings and other human rights violations, especially against young men in low-income areas. According to the report, the DAET includes officials accused of human rights violations and crimes against humanity in the Mission’s previous reports.   

With information from Acceso a la Justicia, Tal Cual and Efecto Cocuyo