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Statement by the High Commissioner at the Special Meeting of the Human Rights Council on the occasion of the visit of the President of the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela

12 November 2015

Mr. President,
Distinguished Members of the Council,

Please allow me to welcome H.E. President Nicolas Maduro to the Human Rights Council. I welcome this opportunity for the Council to hear from President Maduro about the human rights situation in the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela, particularly given its recent re-election to this important body.

Membership of the Council comes with the responsibility to promote and protect human rights in one’s own country, but also on the global stage. It is my sincere hope that Venezuela will strive to make concrete progress on both fronts.

I welcome Venezuela’s participation in the Council’s Universal Periodic Review and in its review this year by both the UN Human Rights Committee and the Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights. I encourage its continued cooperation with international human rights mechanisms. My Office, in particular our Regional Office for South America, is ready to provide technical assistance in the implementation of the recommendations made by the Committees and in Venezuela’s UPR, as well as on the National Human Rights Action Plan. I also urge Venezuela to ratify again the Inter-American Convention on Human Rights.

A number of UN human rights bodies, including the Working Group on Arbitrary Detention and the Human Rights Committee, as well as my own Office, have raised serious concerns about the independence of the judiciary in Venezuela, the impartiality of judges and prosecutors and the pressures they face in handling politically sensitive cases. The cases of Judge María Lourdes Afiuni and Leopoldo Lopez are stark illustrations of these problems. The Human Rights Committee also recently expressed concerns, which I share, about intimidation, threats and attacks against journalists, human rights defenders and lawyers. I take this opportunity to urge Venezuela to comply with the recommendations of these international human rights bodies and to ensure that such individuals do not face undue pressure in carrying out their important work.

As the Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights recently noted, Venezuela has made significant progress in the reduction of malnutrition and poverty. However in recent years, there has been what the Committee termed “a regressive tendency in the results of the fight against poverty”, which needs to be addressed.

The implementation of a broad state of emergency in 24 municipalities, which suspends a number of human rights protections, is also deeply worrisome and should be promptly lifted.

It is one of the key obligations of a sovereign State to uphold human rights and to defend even those – indeed especially those – who disagree with the State’s policies. It is thus that we build societies that are stable, resilient and prosperous.

I thank you.