Michelle Bachelet, United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights
49th session of the Human Rights Council

Distinguished President,
Since my last update on the human rights situation in Venezuela, in September 2021, some reform initiatives are opening up new opportunities for the implementation of important human rights recommendations.

The reform of the judicial system and the restructuring of the national police are promising steps. In particular, the ban on trying civilians by military tribunals, as well as measures to address overcrowding in pre-trial detention centers and to disband special action forces, are in line with previous recommendations and may lead to a major institutional transformation. Furthermore, I welcome the extension of the application deadline for the Supreme Court of Justice, which has allowed for a greater number of candidates. This process is an opportunity to strengthen the independence of the Venezuelan judiciary, and I call on the authorities to carefully assess the impartiality, independence and professional conduct of candidates during the selection process.

These police and justice reforms must be implemented in a meaningful, genuine and effective way, to address past human rights abuses and prevent their recurrence, and my team stands ready to support these efforts.

Venezuela’s recent conclusion of a Memorandum of Understanding with the Office of the Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court is yet another opportunity for the authorities to demonstrate their commitment to fighting impunity through prompt, genuine prosecutions and prosecutions. and efficient.

Our Office remains available to provide technical support in accordance with our mandate and international human rights standards in this context. We stand ready to provide continued support to national efforts to promote accountability for human rights violations. The Attorney General has granted our team access to certain records of human rights violations and to a court hearing. I hope this access to records and hearings will increase soon.

I also note that since September 2021, state agents have been convicted in at least three emblematic cases, including the homicide and torture of Navy Captain Rafael Acosta Arevalo. These are steps in the right direction, but there is still a long way to go. My Office has engaged with the competent authorities to strengthen the legal framework for the prevention and punishment of torture.

We continue to observe challenges to due process, including the right to liberty and trial without undue delay, and access to counsel of one’s own choosing. Of the concerning individual cases raised with the authorities since September 2021, 18 have been released. At least 6 people remain in detention despite their release orders, and at least 22 have requested their release citing the expiry of legal deadlines. Of the cases decided by the Working Group on Arbitrary Detention, 12 people remain in detention.

I reaffirm that all those arbitrarily detained must be released; and due process guarantees – including those established by recent reforms – must be respected. Detainees must have access to adequate medical care, and my Office regularly draws the authorities’ attention to specific urgent cases.

Mister President,

Since September, my Office has documented 93 incidents related to restrictions on Venezuela’s civic and democratic space, including the criminalization, threats and stigmatization of civil society activists, independent media and trade unionists.

I remain concerned about the lawsuits against members of the human rights NGO Fundaredes. Two of its members have been conditionally released, but they continue to face criminal charges. The director of Fundaredes, Javier Tarazona, is still detained and his health seems to be deteriorating.

We have documented 24 cases of stigmatization of human rights defenders, journalists and other members of civil society by state agents, on social media or in public speeches, since September 2021. I strongly urge authorities to foster dialogue and cooperation, and to build a safe and inclusive environment for all Venezuelans.

We have also documented the closure of eight radio stations and radio programs over the past year, allegedly by order of the National Telecommunications Commission. At least 13 other similar cases have been reported by civil society organizations. In addition, access to the websites of at least seven media outlets has been blocked. The Venezuelan people have the right to independent sources of information and the freedom of the media must be protected.

I remain concerned about the lack of availability of public information. Despite the adoption of the law on transparency and access to information of public interest in September 2021, no national budget has been published since 2018.

The municipal and regional electoral process held last November was largely peaceful. I welcome the access granted to international electoral observation missions and the United Nations Group of Experts, as well as the measures taken by the National Electoral Council for the legitimacy of the process. In terms of gender balance, I find that while many women participated as candidates, few were elected to the top positions. I underline the importance of ensuring broad public participation, without excessive administrative obstacles. I call on the authorities to guarantee the participation of women and to strengthen the independence of electoral institutions.

In this context, I am encouraged by the discussions on the resumption of talks between the Government and members of the opposition parties. As the Secretary-General has said, I call on the parties to engage in inclusive and constructive negotiation with full respect for human rights and the rule of law. We stand ready to provide technical support, and I encourage the international community to facilitate the conditions conducive to the conclusion and implementation of meaningful agreements.

Mister President,

The presence of armed non-state actors and criminal groups has increased violence, particularly along the border with Colombia; in mining regions; and in urban centers. Clashes in Apure state have led to the forced displacement of hundreds of Venezuelans, many of them indigenous. I call on the authorities to investigate all allegations of human rights violations and abuses, paying particular attention to the rights of indigenous peoples.

I continue to encourage the lifting of sectoral sanctions to help meet the needs of the most vulnerable segments of the Venezuelan population.

In line with the affirmations made during Venezuela’s engagement with the third cycle of the UPR, I look forward to the creation of a national mechanism to follow up on UPR recommendations. I also welcome the engagement of the authorities with my Office and I am convinced that we will continue to deepen our cooperation to advance human rights in the country.

Thank you