Geneva - U.N. investigators accuse the Venezuelan government of Nicolas Maduro of a deliberate policy of repression to crush dissent by violent, abusive means to maintain its grip on power.
The government barred the three-member Fact-Finding Mission on Venezuela from entering the country. So, it has based its latest report on 246 confidential in-person and remote interviews and on reams of case files and legal documents.
The experts say their investigations and analyses show the government relies on its military intelligence service, known as DGCIM (the Directorate General of Military Counterintelligence) to repress dissent in the country. This, it says, is done through grave crimes and human rights violations that could amount to crimes against humanity.
The report documents 122 cases of victims subjected to torture, sexual violence and other cruel or inhuman treatment. It says these crimes are carried out in intelligence headquarters in the capital, Caracas, and in a network of covert detention centers across the country.
Mission chair Marta Valinas says Venezuela's civilian intelligence agency, SEBIN, (Bolivarian National Intelligence Service) also has tortured and ill-treated opposition politicians, journalists, human rights defenders and protesters. She says these acts of violence are not conducted at random by individuals acting alone in either the state military or civilian intelligence services.
"Instead, DGCIM and SEBIN were part of a machinery designed and deployed to execute the government's plan to repress dissent and cement its own grip on power. This plan was orchestrated at the highest political level led by President Nicolas Maduro and supported by other senior authorities," said Valinas.
The experts say violations continue to this day and take place in a climate of almost complete impunity. They say the handful of intelligence officials who have been held to account have been low-ranking.
Fact-Finding Mission member Francisco Cox says Venezuelan authorities have made no effort to hold perpetrators to account in a way that would provide justice and redress to victims.
"That is why in our report, we have taken the decision to focus on, and in some cases, name specific individuals in DGCIM and SEBIN. We have reasonable grounds to believe that these individuals are responsible for human rights violations and crimes against humanity and should be investigated," he said.
The experts say they have sent 23 letters to Venezuelan authorities asking to meet with them, receive information and to give them the opportunity to respond to their allegations. They say they have received no response.
The report of the Fact-Finding Mission will be submitted to the U.N. Human Rights Council next week.