GENEVA – The office of the United Nations’ high commissioner for human rights (OHCHR) suggested on Wednesday Venezuelan security forces had carried out extrajudicial executions and forced disappearances during recent anti-government protests.
In a report on possible human rights violations in the country between April 1 and July 31, the OHCHR said it had come to the conclusion that security forces had killed at least 46 people.
“Intentional killing committed with firearms or other less lethal weapons, unless strictly unavoidable to protect life, contravenes international standards, and amounts to excessive use of force, and possibly to an extrajudicial execution,” read the report, which added that pro-government armed groups, known as colectivos, had killed at least 27 people.
The public prosecutor’s office investigated 124 of the deaths linked to the protests and found that, of the 46 people killed by security forces, 27 had been killed by firearms, two by inhaling tear gas, one by plastic bullets, 14 by pellets and two by teargas canisters.
The OHCHR also detected several cases of what were believed to be forced disappearances, a particularly aggravating form of arbitrary detention, but was able to establish the whereabouts of all those whose cases had been documented.
According to the NGO Foro Penal Venezolano, which provides help to victims of human rights violations, at least 5,051 people, including 410 minors, were arrested between April 1 and July 31, of which 1,383 remain in detention.
“The policies pursued by the authorities in their response to the protests have been at the cost of Venezuelans’ rights and freedoms,” said Zeid Ra’ad al-Hussein, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights.
The UN had previously reported that many of those who were arrested, both adults and children, were subjected to cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment equivalent in several cases to torture.
Many detainees were allegedly severely beaten and one man reported that he was handcuffed, tied to a pipe on the ceiling and beaten for nine hours straight.
Others claimed they had been burned with cigarettes and forced to kneel for hours or listen to pro-government chants and songs.
The OHCHR also reported cases of electrocutions and security forces releasing tear gas and other chemical substances in confined spaces or directly on the detainees’ respiratory tracts.
Throughout the course of the investigation, the UN interviewed 135 witnesses from Panama and Geneva, as the international organization does not have access to Venezuela.
In the face of all the abuse recorded, the OHCHR urged the Human Rights Council and the UN General Assembly to adopt measures that would curb an even greater deterioration of fundamental liberties in Venezuela.
Venezuela’s all-powerful Constituent National Assembly (ANC) had voted unanimously on Tuesday to put opposition leaders on trial for allegedly encouraging the United States to impose economic sanctions on the Caracas government.
Al-Hassan said Wednesday that the UN was very concerned by these trials and that the situation was being closely monitored.