In a public statement issued on 21 August, a coalition of 11 Venezuelan and international human rights organisations urged the United Nations Human Rights Council to establish a Commission of Inquiry on Venezuela during its 42nd session in September 2019.
In the statement, the organisations detailed why a UN Commission of Inquiry is the best answer the international community can offer to victims of the Venezuelan humanitarian crisis.
“A UN Commission of Inquiry would play a crucial role in addressing the rights to justice, truth and reparation for victims of rights abuses in Venezuela, advancing accountability, and encouraging rights-respecting policies. Such an effort could have an important deterrent effect to prevent additional serious human rights violations and possible mass atrocity crimes during the country’s ongoing crisis”.
The coalition includes: Acción Solidaria, Amnesty International, Centro Derechos Humanos – Universidad Católica Andrés Bello, CEPAZ, Civilis Derechos Humanos, COFAVIC, Espacio Público, Global Centre for the Responsibility to Protect, Human Rights Watch, International Commission of Jurists and PROVEA.
“The victims of the dire human rights and humanitarian crisis in Venezuela deserve a thorough and authoritative response from the Human Rights Council to address their right to truth, justice, and reparations,” said José Miguel Vivanco, Americas director at Human Rights Watch. “The Human Rights Council has the opportunity and responsibility to create a mechanism to investigate grave violations in Venezuela and to identify those responsible and, where possible, the chain of command.”
Human rights abuses in Venezuela include arbitrary arrests, torture, extrajudicial executions, and violations to the rights to food and health. Since 2014, Venezuelan authorities have arbitrarily detained more than 15,000 people, including hundreds of civilians who were prosecuted by military courts. More than 8,500 were conditionally released but remain subject to criminal prosecution.
In 2018 and the first five months of 2019, according to reporting by the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, nearly 7,000 people were killed by Venezuelan security forces in alleged cases of “resistance to authority,” in the context of public security operations. Many may constitute extrajudicial killings.
A commission of inquiry is needed to identify those responsible and break the cycle of impunity, the 11 organisations argue in the statement.
Amnesty International’s Americas Director, Erika Guevara-Rosas, said:
“The international community seems to have forgotten victims of human rights violations who are suffering the consequences of crimes under international law. It is high time for the UN’s human rights body to take a decisive, victims-first approach towards an unprecedented human rights crisis in the country that continues to deepen. Meanwhile, millions are fleeing the country. The Human Rights Council has no time to waste”.
Severe shortages of medicines, medical supplies, and food leave many Venezuelans unable to adequately feed their families or access essential health care. Venezuela’s health system is in utter collapse with increased levels of maternal and infant mortality, the reemergence and spread of vaccine-preventable diseases, such as measles and diphtheria, and increases in numbers of infectious diseases such as malaria and tuberculosis.
A UN report published in April 2019 states that 2.8 million are in need of healthcare including around 300,000 people whose lives are at risk because they have been unable to access medicines or treatment for diseases such as cancer, diabetes and HIV for over a year. The report also estimates that 94 per cent of Venezuela’s 28.8 million residents now live in poverty and that over 4 million have fled the country.