Venezuelan authorities have used "illegal" raids on the homes of suspected political dissenters as part of an intimidation campaign, Amnesty International charged in a report issued Monday.
Local human rights groups have gathered accounts "of at least 47 raids and attacks on residential areas" across the country between April and July, according to Amnesty's report. The raids coincide with four months of often-violent street demonstrations against President Nicolas Maduro's socialist administration, in which more than 120 people were killed, almost 2,000 injured and at least 5,000 arrested.
The authorities "have taken street repression into people's living rooms," Erika Guevara-Roasa, Amnesty's director for the Americas, said in a statement accompanying the report's release.
The report accuses state security forces of using "disproportionate force when carrying out these raids" and calls for an end to "arbitrary actions."
The Amnesty report, "Nights of Terror," said researchers had "interviewed more than 60 people whose homes had been raided or attacked."
Their accounts accuse security agents and other armed men – allegedly belonging to government-backed groups known as colectivos – of breaking down doors, smashing windows and demanding information about possible demonstrators. They said the raiders sometimes indiscriminately fired pellet guns and set off tear gas grenades, damaged or stole property and threatened additional violence. A man in Lara state told an investigator that security forces at one building shouted a threat to "to rape you all."
The Amnesty report echoes findings by the Office of United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, which cited similar witness accounts in a report released in August.
The Maduro administration often contends his political foes are trying to undermine the socialist government with help from the United States and other foreign entities.
Amnesty's report said the rights group had sought, but had not received, information from the Venezuelan attorney general's office about complaints filed by people whose homes had been raided.
Venezuela's former attorney general, Luisa Ortega, had denounced what she called arbitrary raids. In August, she was removed from office by Venezuela's constituent assembly, a super-legislature that the United States and many other countries in the region consider fraudulent. Ortega has fled Venezuela.
Earlier this month, Ortega told the German news organization Deutsche Welle that she has sufficient evidence of human rights abuses and extrajudicial killings to get Maduro hauled before the International Criminal Court. She also says she has evidence of the administration's corruption.