clearn.png
Monday September 21st, 2020 5:54AM

Experts cite 'crimes against humanity' in Maduro's Venezuela

By The Associated Press
Related Articles
  Contact Editor

GENEVA (AP) — Independent experts for the U.N.’s top human rights body accused the government of Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro on Wednesday of crimes against humanity, highlighting grisly cases of torture and killings allegedly carried out by security forces who used techniques like electric shocks, genital mutilation and asphyxiation.

In a scathing, in-depth report commissioned by the Human Rights Council, the experts said the people responsible for extrajudicial executions, enforced disappearances, arbitrary detentions and other crimes must be held to account to provide justice for untold thousands of victims and to ensure such crimes don't happen again.

The findings of the report are likely to ratchet up pressure on Maduro's government, which has overseen a country in tatters with runaway inflation, a violent crackdown and an exodus of millions of Venezuelans who have fled to neighboring countries to escape the turmoil since he took power in 2013.

Venezuelan Foreign Minister Jorge Arreaza lashed out saying the report written by an alleged fact-finding mission was actually led by a group of nations set on attacking Venezuela.

“This report plagued by falsehoods was drawn up from afar without relying on rigorous methodology by a phantom mission directed against Venezuela by governments subordinate to Washington,” Arreaza said on Twitter.

The experts say they delved into nearly 3,000 cases, looked at more than 5,000 killings and concluded that Maduro and his defense and interior ministers were aware of the crimes committed by Venezuelan security forces and intelligence agencies.

They further alleged that high-level authorities had both power and oversight over the forces and agencies, making the top officials responsible. Venezuelan authorities were not immediately available for comment.

Critics have already accused Maduro’s government of crimes against humanity. But the 411-page report represents one of the most extensive looks at recent rights abuses in Venezuela, drawing upon interviews with victims, relatives, witnesses, police, officials and judges, plus videos, satellite imagery and social media content. The authors said they did not receive responses from the government.

The experts -- Marta Valinas of Portugal, Francisco Cox Vial of Chile, and Paul Seils of Britain -- worked under a fact-finding mission that the 47-nation Human Rights Council, the U.N.'s top human rights body, set up in September to investigate alleged acts of cruel, inhumane or degrading treatment and other human rights violations in Venezuela since 2014.

“These acts were committed pursuant to two state policies, one to quash opposition to the government and another to combat crime, including by eliminating individuals perceived as criminals," Valinas told reporters. “We also consider that the documented crimes were committed as part of a widespread and systematic attack against the civilian population.”

“For these reasons, the mission has reasonable grounds to believe that they amount to crimes against humanity,” she said, noting the alleged arbitrary killings and systematic use of torture, in particular.

Under Article 7 of the U.N. treaty that established the International Criminal Court, a crime against humanity is defined as an act committed as part of a “widespread or systematic attack directed against any civilian population.”

The experts said the violations in Venezuela took place amid a breakdown of democratic institutions, rule of law and judicial independence in the country, often during crackdowns on protesters. They said the “vast majority” of unlawful killings by security forces have not resulted in prosecutions and “at no stage have officials with command responsibility been brought to justice."

The report found that members of the Special Action Forces, a feared division of the national police service, and another unit were responsible for over half of the thousands of wrongful deaths that the experts examined. Superiors had authority to grant officers a “green light to kill,” the report's authors wrote, citing a training video that showed officers being encouraged to “kill criminals without compassion.”

U.N. human rights chief Michelle Bachelet, who traveled to Venezuela last year and met with Maduro, has urged him to dissolve the special forces and to hold the division's leaders accountable. Her requests have gone ignored.

The Bolivarian National Intelligence Service, known as SEBIN, was deemed responsible by the rights council experts for politically motivated arrests and torture, targeting dissident voices and human rights activists, the report says. Cox, the expert from Chile, detailed a vast range of torture methods allegedly used and that he said sometimes resulted in permanent physical and psychological injuries, or death.

“Among the acts of torture we have reasonable grounds to believe were committed are: sexual and gender based violence, including forced nudity, rape and threats of rape; targeted violence against male genitals; asphyxiation with toxic substances and water-stress positions; prolonged solitary confinement in harsh conditions, cuts and mutilation; electric shocks and threats to family close to those detained,” he told reporters in Geneva, where the council is based, via video conference.

The experts said they had recorded the names of more than 45 intelligence and counter-intelligence officers “who should be investigated and prosecuted” — without making them public. The names could be made available to International Criminal Court prosecutors who in 2018 opened a preliminary investigation into allegations of abuses in Venezuela.

Venezuela is a member of the court, meaning that crimes there could fall under the ICC’s jurisdiction.

Maduro’s government has come under increasing political pressure from the United States and dozens of other countries which consider politician Juan Guaidó the legitimate leader of Venezuela. Maduro has called it a plot to overthrow him so the U.S. can exploit Venezuela’s vast oil wealth.

Venezuela was once wealthy, sitting atop the world’s largest oil reserves, but it has tumbled into economic and political crisis. An estimated 5 million Venezuelans have fled, escaping dangerous streets, poverty and hunger. Its inability to produce gasoline has forced it to import fuel from Iran amid deep shortages that have sparked frustration among drivers stuck in line to fill up for hours, or even days.

___

Associated Press writer Scott Smith in Caracas, Venezuela, contributed to this report.

  • Associated Categories: Associated Press (AP), AP World News, AP Business, AP Business - Industries, AP Business - Utilities
© Copyright 2020 AccessWDUN.com
All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed without permission.
Palestinian refugee agency warns of instability amid crisis
The U.N. agency for Palestinian refugees is experiencing a financial crisis that could force it to halt some services to an already impoverished population of more than 5 million people
8:23AM ( 20 minutes ago )
West African leaders urge civilian rule in Mali within days
West African leaders have emphasized that Mali’s junta should nominate civilian transitional leaders within days to lead the nation toward elections
8:16AM ( 27 minutes ago )
'The Nest' author has new novel scheduled for 2021
The author of the million-selling debut novel “The Nest” has a new book coming out next year
8:15AM ( 28 minutes ago )
Associated Press (AP)
Global economic outlook not as bad as expected - OECD
The Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development says that the world’s global economy is not doing as bad as previously expected, especially in the United States and China, but has still suffered an unprecedented drop
7:48AM ( 55 minutes ago )
Bosnian Serbs honor late ex-official convicted of war crimes
Bosnian Serb authorities have held an official commemoration for a top former wartime leader despite his conviction on war crimes charges
7:32AM ( 1 hour ago )
High-tech ship set for launch on 400th Mayflower anniversary
Dignitaries, seafarers and scientists are gathering in Plymouth, England, to mark the 400th anniversary of the departure of the Mayflower, which carried a group of Puritan settlers to a new life across the Atlantic Ocean
7:11AM ( 1 hour ago )
AP World News
Palestinian refugee agency warns of instability amid crisis
The U.N. agency for Palestinian refugees is experiencing a financial crisis that could force it to halt some services to an already impoverished population of more than 5 million people
8:23AM ( 20 minutes ago )
West African leaders urge civilian rule in Mali within days
West African leaders have emphasized that Mali’s junta should nominate civilian transitional leaders within days to lead the nation toward elections
8:16AM ( 27 minutes ago )
'The Nest' author has new novel scheduled for 2021
The author of the million-selling debut novel “The Nest” has a new book coming out next year
8:15AM ( 28 minutes ago )
The Latest: "Catastrophic flooding is unfolding" from Sally
The National Hurricane Center says Sally is still Category 2 hurricane with top winds of 100 mph as it moves about 15 miles inland from Gulf Shores, Alabama
8:13AM ( 30 minutes ago )
Report finds global economic outlook not as bad as expected
The Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development says that the world’s global economy is not doing as bad as previously expected, especially in the United States and China, but has still suffered an unprecedented drop
8:10AM ( 33 minutes ago )