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Venezuela Human Rights Reforms Fall Short, UN Commissioner Says


FILE - Municipal police officers prepare for a security operation, in Caracas, Venezuela, Dec. 1, 2020.

U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet welcomes efforts by Venezuela’s government to improve human rights standards in the country but says they do not go far enough. Bachelet gave her assessment in a report she submitted to the U.N. Human Rights Council.

The government of Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro has announced several new initiatives, including reforms of the country’s police and justice system.

That seemingly has resulted in a downward trend in alleged deaths during protests and security operations. However, Bachelet says every death is one too many. In line with the spirit of the announced reforms, she called on the authorities in Caracas to assure accountability for past and present killings of protesters.

FILE - United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet looks on after delivering a speech on global human rights developments during a session of the Human Rights Council, in Geneva, June 21, 2021.
FILE - United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet looks on after delivering a speech on global human rights developments during a session of the Human Rights Council, in Geneva, June 21, 2021.

Bachelet said social protests are continuing because of a lack of access to basic services and persistent socio-economic inequalities. That, she said, is compounded by the impact of unilateral sectoral sanctions and the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Conditions of detention continue to give rise to concern. All the more so in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic. Access to adequate food, water, sanitation and health care must be guaranteed to all.… I welcome the imminent closure of all detention facilities run by the intelligence services as announced by the president,” she said, speaking through an interpreter.

Regarding judicial reform, Bachelet called on the government to ensure people charged with a crime have the right to a fair trial, including unrestricted access to a lawyer of their choosing and guarantees of an independent, impartial proceedings.

She said restrictions on civic space also are an issue of great concern.

“I highlight in particular the stigmatization, criminalization and threats against dissenting voices, particularly towards civil society, media and members of the opposition. From June 2020 to May of this year, my office documented 97 such incidents related to human rights defenders,” she said.

Bachelet noted most were charged with criminal offenses for taking part in legitimate forms of civic engagement.

Venezuela’s ambassador to the U.N. in Geneva, Hector Constant Rosales, condemned the report, saying it is based on double standards. He said his country complies with international legal standards of human rights. That, he said, despite being under enormous pressure due to the financial sanctions imposed by the United States.

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