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UN issues warning to Venezuela: Deaths squads, torture, ‘grave violations' must end

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A United Nations report on Venezuela has urged for immediate action to stop 'grave violations' including extrajudicial killings and torture.

The United Nations has painted a dark picture of the human rights situation in Venezuela in its latest report calling for immediate steps to rectify serious violations.

Its report accuses Venezuela of using security forces to send young men to death squads and shares fears around a chilling number of potential extrajudicial killings taking place.

Nearly 7,000 people have been killed during security operations in Venezuela in the past year and a half, the United Nations reported.

The report by UN human rights chief Michelle Bachelet warned many of these killings may justify “executions.”

“The incidence of alleged extrajudicial killings by security forces… has been shockingly high,” Ms Bachelet’s office said in a statement.

It has called on Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro to end a Special Forces group labelled particularly responsible for these deaths.

The report interviewed 558 victims and witnesses of human rights violations.

Those interviewed consistently referring to the notorious 'FAES' group as a “death squad” or “extermination group”.

Families of 20 men described how masked men dressed in black would arrive in black pickup trucks without license plates.

It said they broke into their houses, taking belongings and assaulting women, and in some cases stripping them naked.

“They would separate young men from other family members before shooting them,” the report read.

Protesters in Venezuela confront official members of the armed forces during a protest in Caracas, Venezuela.
Protesters in Venezuela confront official members of the armed forces during a protest in Caracas, Venezuela.
EFE

The report urged Caracas to "dissolve" the shadowy security force.

"These killings warrant immediate investigation to ensure accountability of perpetrators and guarantees of non-recurrence."

The Venezuelan Foreign Ministry has accused the U.N. report of bias against the government saying it ignores the nation’s human-rights achievements, according to the Wall Street Journal.

‘Grave violations’

The 16-page UN document depicts “patterns of violations” affecting human rights across the spectrum of politics, economic, and social discrimination.

This includes alleged torture in a number of cases with the UN detailing the possible methods used.

“Women and men were subjected to one or more forms of torture or cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment, including electric shocks, suffocation with plastic bags, waterboarding, beatings, sexual violence, water and food depreciation, stress positions and exposure to extreme temperatures,” the report reads.

Last year, the government registered 5,287 killings for "resistance to authority", while since January this year another 1,569 similar killings were registered, according to the report.

An anti-government protester walks near a bus that was set on fire by opponents of Venezuela's President Nicolas Maduro in Caracas, Venezuela.
An anti-government protester walks near a bus that was set on fire by opponents of Venezuela's President Nicolas Maduro in Caracas, Venezuela.
AP

The UN rights chief visited Venezuela last month and will present the report to the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva on Friday.

The Human Rights Chief has urged that immediate steps be taken to investigate these cases and those of the alleged extrajudicial killings.

UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet after her meeting with Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro in Caracas, Venezuela.
UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet after her meeting with Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro in Caracas, Venezuela.
EFE

Venezuela is caught in an economic crisis and a political standoff between President Nicolas Maduro's government and National Assembly leader Juan Guaido.

The opposition leader, Guaido, declared himself interim president earlier this year and has been recognised by the United States and more than 50 other countries.

The oil-rich country is also suffering from hyperinflation and shortages of basic goods from food to medicine, a crisis that has forced millions to flee.

A national guard hydrant truck sprays opponents to Venezuela's President Nicolas Maduro during protests in Caracas, Venezuela.
A national guard hydrant truck sprays opponents to Venezuela's President Nicolas Maduro during protests in Caracas, Venezuela.
AP

'Venezuelans deserve a better life'

The report concluded that "there are reasonable grounds to believe that grave violations of economic and social rights, including the rights to food and health, have been committed in Venezuela."

It also said that "as the economic crisis deepened, the authorities began using social programmes in a discriminatory manner, based on political grounds, and as an instrument of social control."

The UN noted that sanctions imposed on Venezuela, while not responsible for the country's woes, were making the economic crisis and “thus the humanitarian situation” worse.

U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet greeted by Venezuela's President Nicolas Maduro, in Caracas, Venezuela.
U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet greeted by Venezuela's President Nicolas Maduro, in Caracas, Venezuela.

It said Venezuela’s government had implemented a policy of fear aimed at “repressing and criminalising political opponents.”

The rights office pointed to a series of laws, policies and practices in Venezuela that it said had "restricted the democratic space, dismantled institutional checks and balances, and allowed patterns of grave violations.

Ms Bachelet is pleading Venezuelan authorities to take immediate steps to address recommendations made.

“All Venezuelans deserve a better life, free from fear and with access to adequate food, water, healthcare, housing and all other basic human needs," she said.

Source AFP - SBS, Reuters - SBS

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