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Presentation of the HC report on the human rights situation and technical assistance in the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela

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48th session of the Human Rights Council
Michelle Bachelet, United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights Geneva

Geneva, 13 September 2021

Madam President, Excellencies,

I am pleased to present my report on the human rights situation in Venezuela and the cooperation between my Office and the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela (HRC/45/45.2).

Following two years of my team’s presence in Venezuela, we keep expanding our areas of cooperation, access and presence. It is in this spirit that we agreed, last Friday, to renew our Letter of Understanding, doubling the number of Human Rights Officers in the country from 6 to 12. This cooperation will continue to focus on strengthening the national protection mechanisms and access to justice, as well as technical cooperation on the legislative agenda, the implementation of recommendations made by the various human rights mechanisms and the reforms to police and justice that have recently been announced.

Over the last year, my team has been providing technical assistance in various ways, including by assessing the compliance of public institutions with the Minnesota and Istanbul protocols. We are also developing tailored protocols to guide increased accountability in relation to the protection of the rights to life and physical integrity.

My Office has also assessed and made recommendations aimed at tackling existing concerns in relation to pre-trial detention centres. We remain ready to accompany the ongoing police and justice reforms to support compliance with applicable human rights standards.

Of the cases shared through our cooperation mechanisms, 152 detainees have been released since June 2020. I reiterate my call for the full release of all those arbitrarily detained, and I welcome the acquittal of Braulio Jatar.

We also continue to accompany authorities in their preparation for the upcoming Universal Periodic Review and promote the ratification of all core human rights treaties, such as the Convention against Enforced Disappearance.

Over the past two years, my team has conducted eight missions to various parts of the country and visited 24 detention centres to issue targeted recommendations on the human rights situation. Some of these can be found in the report I present today. This report also provides an overview of the situation of economic, social and environmental rights. It also describes how the pre-existing humanitarian and economic situations were exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic and sectoral sanctions, further limiting access to basic services. I reiterate my call for sectorial sanctions to be lifted.

I acknowledge efforts made by the government to face the challenges posed by the COVID-19 pandemic. Yet as elsewhere, it meant redirecting scarce resources away from other necessary treatment, further amplifying shortages in the health sector, and leaving health professionals and other vulnerable groups particularly at risk. With insufficient vaccine doses available so far, let me remind all here today that access to vaccines is a human right and must be considered a global public good.

Excellencies,

Despite economic and social programmes put in place to alleviate the situation, and some improvements achieved over recent years, income levels continue to be dramatically low and insufficient to ensure an adequate standard of living, and affecting access to food and education. I encourage to strengthen access to basic services, particularly for the most vulnerable groups and with special attention to ensuring equal access, preventing discrimination, and guaranteeing participation, transparency and public oversight.

I am concerned by the absence of public data to monitor and adequately inform public policies. In this context, the role of civil society is all the more essential, and must be protected. I am concerned by additional restrictions and continuing reports of intimidation and criminalization of human rights defenders and union leaders for their legitimate activities. I encourage the establishment of space for dialogue to solve the current stalemate on elections for autonomous universities.

I am confident the political dialogue currently taking place in Mexico can lead to meaningful solutions and translate into more steps forward for the protection of human rights. I also welcome the authorities’ engagement with my Office, and trust that we will continue to deepen our cooperation.

Thank you.