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President Maduro and the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights Address a Special Meeting of the Human Rights Council

12 November 2015

The Human Rights Council today heard an address from Nicolás Maduro Moros, President of the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela, in the context of a special meeting of the Council held at the request of the Government of Venezuela. At the beginning of the meeting, Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein, United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, addressed the Council in a video statement.

President Maduro said that Venezuela always engaged with the Council with transparency and that this was not the first time that Venezuela had to defend itself against unfounded accusations by civil servants. Recognizing the progress made by the United Nations and this Council, Mr. Maduro underlined the need to consolidate the human rights system and this body and to build a true dialogue among the civilizations in which a story and identity of all peoples would be heard. Venezuela was facing an enormous challenge of building a new society in which human beings were at the centre of efforts to build societal happiness. Venezuela had put in place public policies which enabled the country to move past political and economic complexities of 2014 and 2015, and to continue the progress in fighting poverty and extreme poverty through universal health coverage, housing, job creation, income protection and other public policies.

The United Nations and the Human Rights Council must focus on ensuring that they were not used as political weapons against States by those who sought to impose only one vision of the world, said President Maduro, and stressed that Venezuela demanded the highest level of respect by all those under the umbrella of this Council. A new regionalism had been born, attached to the vision of a multipolar world, the world of civilizations and cultures. Venezuela would hold a seat in the Council from 2016 to 2018, and would add its voice to resolving the humanitarian crisis and the plight of hundreds of thousands of migrants; that was going to be among key items on its agenda in the Council, together with the issue of the right of the Palestinians to their free land, to their free State and to the right to life. Venezuela would defend just causes at the very centre of humanity, because behind those events and the painful migration to Europe, behind the war, behind the Palestinian cause, there was the hegemonic power.

In his video statement, High Commissioner Zeid stressed that the membership of the Council came with the responsibility to promote and protect human rights in one’s own country and on the global stage, and expressed hope that Venezuela would strive to make concrete progress on both fronts. Serious concerns were raised by a number of human rights bodies about the independence of the judiciary in Venezuela, the impartiality of judges and prosecutors, and the pressures they faced in handling politically sensitive cases, as illustrated by the cases of Judge María Lourdes Afiuni and Leopoldo Lopez. Also of concern was the intimidation, threats and attacks against journalists, human rights defenders and lawyers. The High Commissioner called upon Venezuela to address the regression in the fight against poverty and to promptly lift the state of emergency in 24 municipalities which suspended a number of human rights protections.

Opening the meeting, Joachim Rücker, President of the Human Rights Council, welcomed President Maduro and urged Venezuela, the newly re-elected member of the Human Rights Council, to fully cooperate with its mechanisms, especially with the Special Procedures.

This is the third special meeting of the Human Rights Council. The first such meeting took place in 2007, when the President of Chile, Michelle Bachelet, addressed the Council, while President Abbas of Palestine addressed the Council in its second special meeting on 28 October 2015.

Opening Remarks

JOACHIM RÜCKER, President of the Human Rights Council, in his opening remarks welcomed His Excellency Nicolás Maduro Moros, President of the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela, and said that the Human Rights Council was responsible for strengthening the promotion and protection of human rights around the globe, and for addressing situations of human rights violations and making recommendations on them. As a re-elected member of the Human Rights Council, Venezuela should fully cooperate with its mechanisms, especially with the Special Procedures, said Mr. Rücker, noting that the last visit to Venezuela by a Special Procedure mandate-holder had been in 1996.

Statement by the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights

Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein, United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, in his video address, welcomed President Maduro and the opportunity for the Council to hear about the human rights situation in Venezuela, particularly in the light of its recent re-election to this important body. Membership of the Council came with the responsibility to promote and protect human rights in one’s own country and on the global stage, stressed High Commissioner Zeid and expressed hope that Venezuela would strive to make concrete progress on both fronts. High Commissioner Zeid further welcomed the participation of Venezuela in the Universal Periodic Review and its review this year by the United Nations Human Rights Committee and the Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, and encouraged its continued cooperation with international human rights mechanisms. High Commissioner Zeid urged Venezuela to ratify again the Inter-American Convention on Human Rights.

A number of the human rights bodies, including the Working Group on Arbitrary Detention and the Human Rights Committee, and the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, had raised serious concerns about the independence of the judiciary in Venezuela, the impartiality of judges and prosecutors and the pressures they faced in handling politically sensitive cases, stressed the High Commissioner. The cases of judge María Lourdes Afiuni and Leopoldo Lopez were stark illustrations of those problems. Also of concern was the intimidation, threats and attacks against journalists, human rights defenders and lawyers.

The High Commissioner urged Venezuela to ensure that such individuals did not face undue pressure in carrying out their important work, and further called upon the Government to address the regression in the fight against poverty and to promptly lift the state of emergency in 24 municipalities which suspended a number of human rights protections. One of the key obligations of a sovereign State was to uphold human rights and defend those – indeed especially those – who disagreed with the State’s policies – it was thus that stable, resilient and prosperous societies were build, concluded the High Commissioner.

Statement by President Maduro of Venezuela

NICOLÁS MADURO MOROS, President of the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela, recalled his previous engagement with the Human Rights Council, when as the Minister of Foreign Affairs he had defended the truth of the fatherland in the context of the Universal Periodic Review in 2011. Venezuela always engaged with the Council with transparency and this was not the first time that it had to defend itself against unfounded accusations here and there by civil servants. Also, this would not be the first time that the lies would collapse under the powerful force of the truth of the country. Venezuela was building a new reality based on equality and justice, said President Maduro, who thanked all for their favourable vote in the re-election of Venezuela to the Human Rights Council. It was an universal vote of confidence, he stressed.

President Maduro recognized the progress made in this Council and stated that much remained to be done to consolidate the human rights system and this body, and to build a true dialogue among the civilizations in which a story and identity of all peoples would be heard. It was the people of South America that had been enslaved and murdered, that 80 million human beings had been exterminated in the indigenous holocaust by imperial and colonial powers. The people of South America were now free and were seeking their own future; no one must impose a political or economic system, or a system of thinking, on others and the people of the South must be respected in their own identity. Venezuela had chosen the path of a social system based on democracy and the rule of law, which placed human beings at the centre of efforts to develop and provide social happiness. The Venezuelan Constitution had been written by millions; it was the only Constitution in Venezuela on which the people had been consulted, and the only Constitution adopted by popular referendum. It had put the human being at the centre and provided for the protection of children, the protection of the environment, the protection of labour rights, the stability of work, and the protection of women.

The society in Venezuela was not without complex processes. Venezuela had suffered harassment by the imperialist power of the United States for more than two decades. The harassment was ongoing even today, as was the misuse and manipulation of the issues of human rights by the West in order to isolate the country and as an attempt to protect those who were seeking to destroy the human rights and democracy that Venezuela had built over the past 70 years. Venezuela was facing an enormous challenge of building a new society and was moving forward in those efforts. During its 2011 Universal Periodic Review, Venezuela was able to bring to the forefront the success achieved in the fight against poverty, and would do so again in 2016. Despite the economic crisis, additional progress was being achieved in fighting poverty and extreme poverty through universal health coverage, housing, job creation, income protection and other public policies. Those and other public policies allowed Venezuela to move ahead with optimism, and to move past the political and economic complexity experienced in 2014 and 2015.

The United Nations and the Human Rights Council must focus on ensuring that they were not used as political weapons against States by those who sought to impose only one vision of the world, said President Maduro, and stressed that Venezuela demanded the highest level of respect by all those under the umbrella of this Council. Venezuela was creating a National Human Rights Council and was creating its national human rights plan, a result of broad-based consultation, which would be in step with the presentation to the Universal Periodic Review in 2016. On 6 December this year, Venezuela would hold elections, said President Maduro, recalling that all governors and municipal authorities in Venezuela were elected and that the electoral system contained 25 audit checks before the results were declared.

A new regionalism had been born, attached to the vision of a multipolar world, the world of civilizations and cultures, said President Maduro. Venezuela would hold a seat in the Council from 2016 to 2018, years that would be crucial in the history of the world, with the massive movement of people from the Middle East and Africa to Europe who sought an oasis of peace, stability and tranquillity. In the Council, Venezuela would add its voice to resolving the humanitarian crisis and the plight of hundreds of thousands of migrants; that was going to be among the key items on its agenda in the Council, together with the issue of the right of the Palestinians to their free land, to their free State and to the right to life. Venezuela would defend just causes at the very centre of humanity, because behind those events and the painful migration to Europe, behind the war, behind the Palestinian cause, there was the hegemonic power. Next year Venezuela was taking the presidency of the Non-Aligned Movement and would support the efforts to rectify the mistakes and address the deterioration of respect and protection of human rights in the United Nations, and the protection of one and all.

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For use of the information media; not an official record