Venezuela’s president and top ministers are responsible for probable crimes against humanity, UN investigators said on Wednesday, a report the country’s government quickly labeled as “riddled with falsehoods.”
In their first report, the team tasked with probing a slew of alleged violations said they had found evidence that state actors, including President Nicolas Maduro, were behind serious crimes such as extrajudicial killings and the systematic use of torture.
Mission chairperson Marta Valinas said the report “found reasonable grounds to believe that Venezuelan authorities and security forces have since 2014 planned and executed serious human rights violations.”
Some of those violations, “including arbitrary killings and the systematic use of torture, amount to crimes against humanity,” said Valinas, whose three-person team was unable to enter Venezuela but relied on remote interviews with victims, witnesses and others, as well as analysis of legal files.
The 411-page report identified the Venezuelan officials deemed responsible, citing “reasonable grounds to believe that both the president and the ministers of People’s Power for Interior Relations, Justice and Peace, and for Defence, ordered or contributed to the commission of the crimes documented.”
– International ‘legal action’ –
World powers accuse Maduro of violently cracking down on dissent over Venezuela’s economic collapse and on opponents in a political stand-off.
The investigators said Venezuelan authorities should conduct “independent, impartial and transparent investigations” into the violations.
But they noted “an erosion of judicial independence,” and suggested the International Criminal Court “should also consider legal actions.”
The mission reviewed some 2,500 incidents since 2014 that led to more than 5,000 killings by security forces.
The report said government officials had repeatedly praised such operations.
– ‘Systematic’ torture –
It listed techniques including rape, asphyxiation, beatings, electric shocks and death threats to extract confessions or as punishment.