[UPDATED] Venezuela: Human Rights Collective Criticizes ‘Unreliable’ UN Report

According to SURES, the high-profile accusations of human rights violations lack objectivity and impartiality.

Lisbon, Portugal, September 24, 2022 (venezuelanalysis.com) – Venezuelan human rights group SURES has called into question a recent report by the Independent International Fact-Finding Mission on the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela.

On September 20, the team of Marta Valiñas (Portugal), Francisco Cox (Chile) and Patricia Tappatá (Argentina) published a report accusing the Venezuelan state of committing crimes against humanity, including arbitrary arrests and torture, and claiming that President Nicolás Maduro and other high-ranking officials are directly involved.

The findings were presented during the 51st session of the United Nations (UN) Human Rights Council. The authors pointed the finger at the DGCIM counterintelligence office and the SEBIN intelligence service and totaled 212 cases of alleged torture, sexual violence or other “inhuman treatment” performed by the two agencies on detainees. The text claimed that “real and perceived dissidents and Government opponents were targeted.”

The fact-finding mission, which was set up in September 2019 by the United Nations Human Rights Council and extended for a further two years in October 2020, went on to highlight purported human rights violations in mining areas in the southern Bolívar state.

Commenting on the report, SURES told Venezuelanalysis that the mission “attacks the pillars of multilateralism” while pointing out that the document itself admits a lower standard of proof that is inconsistent with its high-profile accusations.

The human rights organization further classed the investigation’s methodology as “unreliable.” Valiñas, Cox and Tappatá never visited Venezuela and relied on 246 anonymous interviews, which make claims impossible to independently verify according to SURES.

“The report is inconsistent with the principles of independence, impartiality, objectivity, integrity and transparency,” the collective concluded.

The Venezuelan organization likewise questioned the claim that alleged abuses were “systematic” and recalled that the country’s authorities have tried and jailed purported human rights abusers. Attorney General Tarek William Saab revealed that Venezuelan courts have convicted 210 security officials between 2017 and 2021 for human rights violations.

The Venezuelan government has not commented on the latest findings but National Assembly deputy Jacobo Torres told Sputnik that the latest publication is “non-binding” and “yet another effort to justify actions against Venezuela.”

Caracas has criticized the Valiñas-led mission in the past. In 2020, authorities blasted a previous report as “politicized” and authored by a “ghost mission” in reference to its lack of work inside the country. The Maduro administration opposed the renewal of the mission in October 2020 and presented a counter-report detailing the country’s record on human rights.

Concerning the latest publication, SURES went on to challenge Valiñas, Cox and Tappatá for “ignoring the effects of international sanctions on the Venezuelan population” even when other UN bodies and rapporteurs have detailed the impact of the US-led measures in “exacerbating economic and humanitarian issues, damaging the ability to protect human rights, particularly of the most vulnerable.”

The three-person team has been consistently criticized by Venezuelan and international human rights collectives alike for overlooking US coercive measures and acts of violence perpetrated by US-backed opposition groups.

In contrast with the Fact-Finding Mission, the Venezuelan government has established a more cooperative relationship with United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet, who ended her four-year term in August.

The former Chilean president has maintained criticisms of Venezuelan law enforcement, including an alleged lack of judicial independence. However, she has also praised state authorities for following some of her office’s recommendations, including the dissolution of the FAES special police forces. Bachelet has visited Venezuela and her office has a presence of 16 officials in the country.

Caracas has likewise promoted judicial reforms in response to the International Criminal Court (ICC) opening a formal probe into alleged human rights abuses committed by state security forces during the violent opposition protests in 2017.

Despite disagreeing with the decision by ICC chief prosecutor Karim Khan, the Maduro government signed a cooperation agreement with the Hague-based body that led to the opening of an ICC office in Caracas.

UPDATE: On September 26, the Venezuelan government issued a statement repudiating “false accusations” presented in the fact-finding mission’s “pamphlet.” Caracas stated that the report has “no methodological basis nor direct contact with the country’s reality” and was another example of the politicized use of human rights to attack Venezuelan sovereignty.