Venezuelan security forces guilty of systemic abuse, UN report finds

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Venezuelan intelligence services worked with the president Nicolás Maduro to target and torture perceived enemies, according to a UN report published on Tuesday.

The report, the third that investigators from the UN Fact-Finding Mission on Venezuela (FFMV) have published since their mandate began in 2019, found that “Maduro and other persons of his inner circle, as well as other high-level authorities were involved in selecting targets” that would be arrested and tortured.

Previous reports published by the FFMV found that since 2014, crimes against humanity in the oil-rich but crisis-ridden South American nation have been widespread, with authorities accused of murder, ***, arbitrary detention, torture and forced disappearance, among other atrocities.

The latest report, published on Tuesday, goes further, detailing abuses carried out by members of the country’s military intelligence agency (known as DGCIM) and civilian intelligence agency (known as SEBIN), as part of a plan orchestrated by Maduro and his inner circle.

“The human rights violations by State intelligence agencies, orchestrated at the highest political levels, have taken place in a climate of almost complete impunity,” said Francisco Cox, a member of the FFMV, in a statement released on Tuesday.

“The international community must do everything to ensure that victims’ rights to justice and reparations are guaranteed.”

The report also detailed abuses in the country’s Orinoco Mining Arc, a mineral-rich and lawless tract of land where workers are subject to summary justice and *** violence at the hands of armed groups and state forces.

Venezuela, which sits atop the world’s largest proven oil reserves, is mired in political and economic turmoil. Despite de facto dollarisation of the economy, insecurity, inflation and widespread shortages roil the country, while Maduro has clamped down on dissent.

The crisis has led about 6.8mn Venezuelans to abandon their homeland, often arriving on foot in South American countries ill-equipped to receive the exodus. “Venezuela is a repressive state where the entire system exists only to intimidate,” said Alfredo Romero, the director of Foro Penal, a human rights pressure group based in Caracas.

When the so-called Bolivarian revolution began with the election of leftwing populist Hugo Chávez in 1999, his state-led economic policies were popular with the country’s poor, and were funded by rocketing oil prices.

When Maduro succeeded his late mentor in 2013, falling oil prices left him strapped for cash and living conditions for millions of Venezuelans nosedived.

Maduro has resisted challenges to his rule, most notably in early 2019 when the US and dozens of other countries recognised opposition leader Juan Guaidó as the country’s legitimate leader.

Maduro also faces an ongoing investigation from the International Criminal Court for crimes against humanity.

Rights groups hope that the FFMV’s mandate will be extended at a vote by members of the UN’s human rights council on October 7.

“The fact-finding mission has been essential to push for accountability for crimes against humanity in Venezuela,” said Tamara Taraciuk, deputy director of the Americas division at Human Rights Watch.

“It was after the FFMV reported that there was evidence of crimes against humanity, and that the justice system was complicit in the abuses, that the prosecutor of the ICC decided to open an investigation into possible crimes against humanity in Venezuela.”

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