GENEVA - UN investigation into Venezuela's human rights record has uncovered gross violations and abuse ordered and committed at the highest level of the Government of President Nicolas Madura, accusations angrily dismissed by Venezuelan authorities. The report by the Independent International Fact-Finding Mission on Venezuela has been submitted to the UN Human Rights Council.
The UN investigators say they regret the lack of cooperation from the Venezuelan government. Since they were not allowed to enter the country, they interviewed victims and witnesses inside Venezuela using remote technological means.
Nevertheless, they say they have been able to collect an abundance of material and evidence showing grave violations have been perpetrated directly by members of State security forces and by civil and military intelligence services.
UN Investigators Accuse Venezuelan Government of Crimes Against Humanity Report says President Nicolas Maduro was likely aware of murders and other atrocities allegedly committed by security forces; the government has not responded to the accusations
Chair of the Fact-Finding mission, Marta Valinas, says violations include extrajudicial executions committed in the context of security operations, arbitrary detentions, torture, and acts of sexual violence against people who disagree with or oppose the Government. She speaks through an interpreter.
"Our comprehensive analysis of the 223 cases that we investigated...complemented by a legal analysis gives us reason to believe that those violations were perpetrated as part of a wide-spread systematic policy and in line with State policy and which, for that reason are tantamount to crimes against humanity, said Valinas.
Venezuela's Ambassador to the UN in Geneva, Jorge Valero, views these findings with contempt.
He accuses the United States of trying to overthrow his government. He refers to the so-called Operation Gideon, in which a private, US-based security firm led by a former U.S. Army Green Beret and Venezuelan expatriates led an aborted effort to capture President Nicolas Maduro.
The United States has flatly denied any involvement. U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said, "If we had been involved, it would have gone differently." And U.S. President Donald Trump said, "It has nothing to do with our government."
Ambassador Valero criticizes the council by saying it is supposed to ensure universality, objectivity and non-selectivity. He he says it has failed in this task. He speaks through an interpreter.
"The Office has spent around $3 million to draft the report...The CIA and other U.S. Government bodies have poured millions into these international efforts," vALERO SAID. "They use NGOs, which have converted human rights into a profitable business."
The Fact-Finding Mission says it stands by its report. It says it is crucial to investigate and prosecute those responsible for crimes, and, above all to provide justice for the victims.