Michelle Bachelet, United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights
45th session of the Human Rights Council
Genève, 25 September 2020
This oral presentation covers the period from 2 July to today.
In my presentation to this Council on 14 September under Item 2, I acknowledged positive steps taken recently by the Government of Venezuela, such as the pardon of 110 people and the release of 40, and an increased cooperation with my Office. We will continue to provide technical assistance to the Government.
My Office continued to document cases of repression of peaceful protests in the context of the state of emergency in place since March, including the arrests of demonstrators protesting against low wages and pensions, poor public services and fuel shortages. We registered the deaths of two demonstrators in Anzoátegui and Zulia, allegedly committed by security forces. The Public Prosecutor's Office launched investigations to clarify these events.
In addition, we observed restrictions on freedom of expression, including the application of anti-hate legislation, attacks against human rights defenders and assaults on and arrests of journalists.
I recognize the efforts of the authorities towards Venezuelan migrants returning to the country. However, I am concerned about the stigmatising discourse of some authorities who hold those returning through irregular crossings responsible for introducing COVID-19 in Venezuela.
I recognize the implementation of biosecurity protocols related to COVID-19 in detention centres. I reiterate my call to substantially improve health conditions, access to water, food and medicine, and to ensure regular contact with relatives and lawyers, either physically or by telephone, as well as to explore alternative measures to the deprivation of liberty.
Professional associations have reported that 33 percent of the deaths from COVID-19 have been among health workers due mainly to lack of biosafety equipment and water in hospitals.
The pandemic has joined other pre-existing emergencies, such as the food emergency. Caritas reported that the rate of acute malnutrition in children reached 15 percent in July 2020. It also reported that more families are turning to survival strategies, including stop eating so that another family member can do so.
Additional sanctions on diesel exports might further aggravate the already critical gasoline shortage and hinder the distribution of humanitarian aid and essential goods.
I would like to reiterate my call for the lifting of economic sanctions to facilitate the allocation of resources during the pandemic.
I am concerned about the high number of deaths of young people in disadvantaged neighbourhoods as a result of security operations. Based on an open-source analysis, my Office recorded 711 deaths from June to August, reaching over 2,000 deaths since January 2020.
I welcome the arrests of five members of the Special Action Forces (FAES) allegedly responsible for the death of two people in Zulia on 21 August. The public statements of the Attorney General on this case show a pattern similar to that documented by my Office, in which, after executing the already neutralised victims, the security forces rob them and manipulate the evidence to present the facts as a confrontation.
The Public Prosecutor's Office reported that 70 FAES officials have recently been charged in different states of the country.
I am concerned about the decisions of the Supreme Court of Justice obstructing the freedom of seven political parties to select their representatives and the non-consensual appointment of the members of the National Electoral Council, CNE. I am also concerned by the CNE’s modification of the mechanism for the selection of indigenous representatives to the National Assembly and the changes to the electoral system and to the composition of the National Assembly itself, without a prior inclusive consultation process.
It is crucial that the civic and democratic space be protected in the coming months and that the releases of all those still arbitrarily deprived of their liberty for exercising their rights be continued. I call for further work on building agreements to achieve conditions for the development of credible, free and fair electoral processes.