Experts from the UN have cautioned that the Venezuelan government is intensifying its efforts to suppress dissenting voices.
Marta Valiñas, the leader of the Independent International Fact-Finding Mission on Venezuela, delivered their most recent report to the United Nations Human Rights Council in Geneva. The report details the time frame of January 2020 to August of this year.
Last week’s report centered on two topics: the State’s use of “repression mechanisms” and the necessity of overseeing a recently formed security force that includes officers accused of committing crimes against humanity.
Mr. Valiñas stated in Spanish that the current situation is a result of ongoing repressive measures, leading to a prevalent atmosphere of fear, distrust, and self-censorship. As a result, the core foundations of civil and democratic spaces in Venezuela have been significantly diminished.
She cautioned that there may be an increase in repressive actions leading up to the upcoming presidential elections in the following year.
The report states that a minimum of 58 individuals were taken into custody without just cause during the designated time frame.
The group consisted of trade union executives, advocates for human rights, representatives from non-governmental organizations, journalists, members of opposition parties, and other individuals who expressed their disapproval of President Nicholas Maduro’s administration.
Random murders and abuse.
The Mission looked into nine fatalities in order to ascertain if they were connected to detention. It concluded that there were sufficient grounds to believe that five of the deaths were unjustified and could be attributed to the actions of the State authorities.
Moreover, a minimum of 14 people were abducted against their will for varying durations, ranging from a few hours to 10 days. The investigation recorded 28 instances of torture or cruel treatment in both authorized and hidden detention facilities, with sexual and gender-based assault being the most frequent.
According to Ms. Valiñas, these events indicate a decline compared to previous reports, indicating a change in the political and human rights turmoil in Venezuela.
The start of the COVID-19 outbreak led to the cessation of demonstrations against the government, followed by widespread detainment, abuse, and retaliatory actions.
Freedoms under attack
She stated that our findings indicate a continued presence of grave human rights transgressions in Venezuela, which are not sporadic occurrences but rather a deliberate effort to suppress opposing viewpoints.
The Mission also looked into instances of violations against the rights to express oneself, gather peacefully, and engage in public life.
“Many instances” of targeted suppression have been recorded, specifically directed towards trade union members, journalists, advocates for human rights, political figures, and their family members. Important organizations in civil society, political groups, and the media have also been singled out.
New strategic force
The report raised concerns about the creation of a new policing organization, known as the Directorate of Strategic and Tactical Actions (DAET), in July 2022.
The Mission determined that the DAET is a continuation of the former Special Action Forces (FAES), which was found to be heavily involved in extrajudicial killings and other serious human rights violations while combating crime.
According to Ms. Valiñas, 10 out of the top 15 positions are occupied by ex-FAES members, “and these individuals were previously mentioned in our Mission’s reports as we suspect their involvement in international crimes.”
She mentioned accusations involving the recent force’s participation in operations in the previous year that were connected to numerous murders and over 300 arrests.
The tactics employed by the Special Forces in the past, such as extrajudicial killings, were mirrored in these recent actions. The speaker emphasized the need for a thorough investigation into the matter.