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Independent experts working with the U.N.’s top human rights body say Venezuelan authorities have failed to hold to account state-backed perpetrators of violations including arbitrary executions, sexual violence and torture of civilians, warning that abuses by intelligence and counterintelligence services are continuing.
The third report from the fact-finding mission on Venezuela, commissioned by the U.N.’s Human Rights Council, released Tuesday adds new detail on a string of rights violations — including possible crimes against humanity — under President Nicolás Maduro’s government that the experts first documented two years ago.
The report details on the chain of command followed in the commission of torture, sexual violence and other cruel acts in efforts to suppress opposition against the government.
The document states Maduro and ruling party leader Diosdado Cabello have given orders “identifying targets for investigation,” including civilians and government critics. Those orders were followed by members of the Bolivarian National Intelligence Service, who arrested individuals after “a period of surveillance and investigation” and tortured or subjected them “to cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment.” Some were tortured for days or weeks.
The intelligence service “relied on a range of torture methods, including beatings, electric shocks, asphyxiation with plastic bags and stress positions, as well as threats to kill and rape detainees, or other forms of psychological torture,” according to the report. The document says the agency’s main targets included opposition, student and protest leaders; journalists; and people working for non-governmental organizations.
“Venezuela is still facing a profound human rights crisis,” said Marta Valiñas, a Portuguese legal expert who chairs the mission.
The mission said authorities have not done enough to compensate victims, and cautioned that violations continue “to this day” under the military counterintelligence service, known as DGCIM, and the Bolivarian National Intelligence Service.
“The Venezuelan authorities have failed to hold perpetrators to account and provide reparations to victims in a context where judicial reforms announced from 2021 have failed to address the justice system’s lack of independence and impartiality,” a statement from the mission said.
The team, which drew its findings in part from nearly 250 interviews, documented a total of 122 cases of victims who were subjected by DGCIM agents to torture, sexual violence and other cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment at its headquarters in Caracas and covert centers around the country.
The report also documents human rights abuses in a remote region where illegal gold mining is prevalent. The area known as the Arco Minero del Orinoco was established last decade as the country’s oil industry, whose proceeds kept the country moving, came undone.
The region has become heavily militarized and armed groups are allowed to operate. The mission’s findings include attacks on Indigenous populations in the area that generate opportunities for individuals close to power to generate personal wealth.
“The Mission has reviewed publicly available information indicating that members of the Venezuelan military and political elite have benefited and continue to benefit financially from gold mining-related activities in the Arco Minero,” according to the report.
The experts are expected to present their findings to the council, which last week began its latest autumn session, on Monday.