By Carlos Camacho
CARACAS – “I really don’t know what’s going on with FAES!”
The effete shriek was out of place, particularly coming from a high official with the Nicolás Maduro regime, Attorney General Tarek William Saab, speaking during a live, state TV interview.
But the hysteria can be explained: the regime is trying wildly to disown the Special Actions Force of the Bolivarian National Police (FAES), the special forces police corps accused by the United Nations of egregious human rights violations, just as the UN appealed to the general Venezuelan public on Monday night for additional information on such crimes.
And as Saab announces publicly an “investigation” into FAES and arrest warrants for six of its members, the UN Fact-Finding Mission on Venezuela posted an appeal Monday night in which it “invites individuals, groups and organizations to submit information and documentation relevant to the FFM’s mandate.”
The “fuerzas especiales” of the National Bolivarian Police, FAES was created in 2017 by Maduro himself. The embattled strongman has donned the trademark black uniform (with dead head embossed) on live television and shouted, fist raised, “all of the support for the FAES!” only weeks after the UN’s top human rights official, former Chilean president Michelle Bachelet, asked in 2019 that the polemical force be dissolved.
But, nowadays, Maduro has grown silent: sure, FAES has not been disbanded, but the promises of “maximum support” have been replaced by arrest warrants, some criticism, a lot of silence, promises of investigations and the occasional hysterical pronunciation disowning the corps.
Human Rights Watch says 18,000 extrajudicial executions took place in Venezuela since 2016, while the UN in 2019 said 8,000 such crimes had taken place since 2017.
The regime is accused of involvement in extrajudicial executions, systematic torture, rape and wanton arrests of political opponents and individual citizens, as well as other crimes “perpetrated since 2014” (Maduro took over from Chavez in early 2013), according to a report by the UN mission published months ago.
And, as international investigations go, Saab can be excused for being nervous: just last week he was told, in person, at The Hague, that the International Criminal Court had found reason to pursue two preliminary inquiries into crimes against humanity taking place in Venezuela separate from UN efforts.
“In particular, the Fact-Finding Mission is interested in receiving information related to alleged cases of extrajudicial executions, enforced disappearances, arbitrary detentions and torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment, and sexual or gender-based violence, perpetrated since 2014,” the mission’s appeal post read.
The mission has established a template for reports of abuses that will be sent over a secure cloud it created.