Venezuela Defends Human Rights Gains Before UNHRC Amid Rightwing NGO Attacks

Venezuela testified before the United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC) in Geneva on Tuesday, defending the country’s advances in human rights under the Bolivarian Revolution amid allegations of abuse by opposition NGOs. 

By Lucas Koerner
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The UN Human Rights Council has been accused of silencing the voices of Venezuelan non-government organisations which contradict the claims of Washington-allied human rights groups (UNHRC)
The UN Human Rights Council has been accused of silencing the voices of Venezuelan non-government organisations which contradict the claims of Washington-allied human rights groups (UNHRC)

Philadelphia, June 30, 2015 (venezuelanalysis.com) - Venezuela testified before the United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC) in Geneva on Tuesday, defending the country’s advances in human rights under the Bolivarian Revolution amid allegations of abuse by opposition NGOs.

“In Venezuela, the right to life is inviolable, it’s sacred,” declared Bolivarian attorney general Luisa Ortega Diaz, who presented the government’s official report.

“The Constitution prohibits the death penalty and it’s the obligation of the state to protect life under all circumstances.”

The top prosecutor underscored her nation’s commitment to social and economic rights, noting that the state allocates 62% of its income to social spending, which guarantees Venezuelans access to healthcare, education, housing, public transportation, and other necessities.

Responding to allegations of human rights violations during last year’s violent opposition barricades, Diaz highlighted Venezuela’s efforts to eliminate state repression, including police reform, the Disarmament Plan, the creation of the human rights-centered National Experimental Security University, as well as the launch of the Venezuela, Full of Life Mission.

“The Venezuelan state does not endorse police actions that threaten the human rights of citizens, but rather condemns them,” the attorney general reminded the international body.

“In cases where force has been abused, the corresponding measures have been taken; we stand by our commitment to guarantee the rights of all.”

Diaz indicated that 36 officials occupying “different government positions” had been charged with various crimes committed last year, including nine for homicide and 27 for cruel treatment, seven of whom have been sentenced.

She went on to note that in the case of those detained during the 2014 barricades, 1,659 had their cases dismissed and 1,558 were formally charged, of whom 1,218 were set free and 35 remain detained, including 14 security personnel and 21 civilians.

The attorney general concluded by juxtaposing the advances of the past fifteen years with the “brutal armed repression and human rights violations” perpetrated by the Venezuelan state between 1958 and 1998, in which “not one state security official was arrested for those crimes”.

HRC “Privileges” US-Sponsored NGOs

Despite these gains, Venezuela came under fire from a number of NGOs linked to the country's politicial opposition, who accused the government of “grave human rights violations”, including “extrajudicial executions, excessive use of force, torture” during their testimony before the UNHRC.

However, these allegations were sharply criticized by a group of human rights organizations who identify as Chavista, also present in Geneva, who claimed that they were silenced by the Council.

In an open letter addressed to HRC President Fabián Omar Salvioli, FUNDALATIN, the National Human Rights Network, the Committee of Victims of the Guarimba and Continuing Coup, among other organizations called for a “review of the working methods” of the Council, which they accused of “privileging the voice of some organizations over others.”

International fora such as the HRC, OAS, Inter-American Court of Human Rights have consistently marginalized Venezuelan  human rights organizations critically aligned with the Bolivarian process, choosing to instead center the narrative espoused by opposition NGOs, many of which receive funding from Washington.

This past April, the Committee of Victims of the Guarimba and Continuing Coup was excluded from attending the OAS-organized seventh Summit of the Americas in Panama, whose guest list included Lilian Tintori, the wife of jailed, far right leader Leopoldo Lopez, as well as  Cuban ex-CIA agent Felix Rodriguez Mendigutia, infamous for his role in the assassination of Che Guevara.

Among the anti-government NGOs that testified before the HRC were the Instituto Prensa y Sociedad, Observatorio Venezolano de Prisiones, Espacio Público, all of which receive funding from the US government via the National Endowment for Democracy (NED).

Also present in Geneva was Human Rights Watch, which has been widely criticized for maintaining a “revolving door” with the US government, as well as Amnesty International, whose advocacy work has been shown to largely reflect the interests of elite Western donors.