CARACAS, Venezuela (AP) – Venezuelan security forces carried out fewer extrajudicial killings in the 12 months leading up to April, according to a UN report on Monday, but accuses them of torture or cruel treatment. against individuals as well as enforced disappearances. and incommunicado detention.
Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights report calls on the government of President Nicolas Maduro to end the excessive use of force during protests, dismantle pro-government armed civilian groups and ensure effective and independent investigations on all the killings committed by the security forces.
“Accountability remains essential to prevent and remedy human rights violations and strengthen the rule of law,” said the report, which covers June 1, 2020 through April 30. “Protecting and expanding civic space is vital for strengthening democracy, fostering inclusive dialogue and addressing the root causes of current challenges.
Maduro’s government issued a statement rejecting what it called the “spurious content” of the report. He accused the UN agency of basing the report “on a handful of alleged human rights violations” with the intention of destabilizing Venezuela.
“This report is the result of a resolution promoted by a small group of governments with serious domestic situations of human rights violations, which conspired to satisfy the policy of ‘regime change’ promoted by the United States. America against Venezuela, ”the Foreign Ministry said. said the statement.
The United Nations agency has documented 17 killings allegedly linked to the security forces – 16 during security operations in places with high rates of violence and crime and one during a protest. The report did not provide figures on extrajudicial killings in previous years.
In the majority of cases, according to the report, the killers broke into the homes of the victims, most of whom were young men or boys from poor communities.
Witnesses said they were threatened with death, beaten and dragged by the hair by police. The report says the officers manipulated evidence and removed the bodies from the homes of the victims.
“The events continue to have serious effects in communities, as they instilled fear in the population, generated mistrust of law enforcement, further marginalized poor communities and caused displacement,” said The report.
It also documents nine cases of people whose fate was unknown to family and lawyers while in detention. The agency also said it had received reports of people being beaten, electrocuted, sexually raped and threatened with rape by officers.
The agency said it was not aware of actions taken by the National Commission Against Torture, a branch of the Ombudsman’s office, which is headed by officials close to the government. Critics say the ombudsman’s office routinely looks the other way when complaints of human rights violations are reported.
The report recognizes police reform ordered by Maduro in April and the implementation of training for security forces on human rights and the use of force. The reform, which Maduro has said he wants to implement within six months, creates an opportunity to strengthen oversight and control of the security forces, the UN agency said. However, the reforms proposed in Venezuela do not always materialize.
The report accuses Maduro’s government of continuing to restrict freedom of expression, including by hampering the work of civil organizations and the media through regulatory and administrative measures, including criminal prosecution. The agency documented nearly 100 incidents involving human rights activists, journalists, union leaders and others, including two killings and six other acts of violence.
On Friday, the director of the Venezuelan human rights group FundaRedes, Javier Tarazona, was arrested after reporting to authorities that he had been harassed by national intelligence officials. Two other activists from the group were also arrested.
The UN report noted that the sanctions are adding to the problems in Venezuela, which is mired in a deep political, social and economic crisis attributed to falling oil prices and two decades of mismanagement by socialist governments. It has been in a recession for years. Millions of people live in poverty amid high food prices, low wages and hyperinflation.
Under President Donald Trump, the US government imposed crippling sanctions, seeking to isolate Maduro. These restrictions have made it difficult for Venezuela to develop, sell or transport its oil – the backbone of its economy. The European Union has also imposed sanctions.
Associated Press writer Jorge Rueda reported this story in Caracas and AP writer Regina Garcia Cano reported from Mexico City.