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Statements and speeches Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights

Deputy High Commissioner updates Human Rights Council on Venezuela

Interactive dialogue on the oral update of the High Commissioner on the situation of human rights in the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela 51/29

19 March 2024

Delivered by

Nada Al-Nashif, United Nations Deputy High Commissioner for Human Rights


55th session of the Human Rights Council

Mr. Vice-President,


At the outset, let me start, on behalf of the High Commissioner, by expressing deep regret over the decision by the Government of the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela to suspend the activities of our Office in the country, pending review, and to instruct the departure of our colleagues within 72 hours. These measures were inconsistent with terms of the Letter of Understanding agreed between the Government and my Office as basis for our presence. 

As part of our cooperation with the authorities since 2019, our Office has issued recommendations about conditions of detention, carried out workshops to state officials on international human rights obligations; reviewed and formulated comments on bills, along with supporting the drafting of guidelines for the investigation of crimes against life and physical integrity; and we had recently extended areas of cooperation to the Ministry of Indigenous peoples.

Mr. Vice-President,

Since the establishment of an OHCHR presence in the country, I can attest that positive changes have occurred. Yet, more remains to be done. 

For instance, as protests related to the enjoyment of social and economic rights have persisted throughout the year, our Office has not registered incidents of unnecessary or disproportionate use of force from law enforcement officials. However, I am concerned about cases of arbitrary arrests and detention, dismissal from employment or restriction in access to welfare benefits, following participation in such demonstrations.

As Venezuela enters an electoral cycle, with presidential elections scheduled for 28 July of this year, I am very concerned about steps to unduly restrict the civic and democratic space including cases of detention, intimidation and stigmatization of members and sympathizers of opposition parties. Human rights, such as freedom of expression, assembly and association, and a safe environment are essential pre-conditions for electoral processes and must be protected. I reiterate previous calls for Venezuela’s national electoral processes to be transparent, inclusive, and participatory.

Human rights defenders continue to face repression, arbitrary detention, and threats, these include Javier Tarazona and Rocio San Miguel.

In this context, I also call on the authorities to refrain from adopting the Bill on Oversight Regularization, Performance, and Financing of Nongovernmental and Related Organizations in Venezuela, which could even impede the delivery of aid and life-saving humanitarian assistance.

The signing of the Barbados Agreements in October 2023 between the Government and the Unitary Democratic Platform was a positive step to set conditions for credible elections. I call on their full implementation in good faith and I remind all parties that human rights remain and must be at the centre of negotiations.

I welcome the release of at least 34 persons deprived of liberty following these agreements.  Yet, most of them remain subject to criminal proceedings and must appear periodically before the justice system. In total, in 2023 our Office recorded 69 releases of individuals followed by the team in the country, of which nine had decisions by the Working Group on Arbitrary Detentions. I call for their unfettered release, as well as once again, for the release of all those arbitrarily detained.

Moreover, since January 2023, OHCHR has documented 18 cases of enforced disappearances carried out by intelligence services and security forces in the context of detention. These individuals were arrested by State officials and remained incommunicado for hours or even weeks. During this period, there was either a refusal to acknowledge the deprivation of liberty or concealment of the fate or their whereabouts. Most individuals later face charges related to conspiracy, terrorism, criminal association, treason, and money laundering.

The State has the duty to maintain public order, including in relation to acts of violence. However, all measures must be compatible with international law, including compliance of criminal legislation with the principles of legality and legal certainty. This includes all those allegedly responsible for acts of violence or attempts to promote violence. They, too, are entitled a fair trial and due process in line with international law.

Our Office recognizes efforts of the authorities to fight criminality and reduce homicide rates in the last year, noting a decrease of killings in the context of law enforcement operations since 2019.

I also welcome a recent sentence against a former member of the Bolivarian National Police in a case of a death in a 2018 security operation. I call on the authorities to step up efforts to address impunity in all cases of human rights violations.

The Office has received allegations of ill-treatment of detainees by agents of security or intelligence services, some of which would amount to torture. Of particular concern is the lack of progress on the investigation of the cases of Yukpa indigenous persons in Zulia State by agents of the Bolivarian National Police.

Since the last update to this Council, in July of last year, the Office has conducted seven visits to detention centres, with the support of the Venezuelan authorities, bringing it to a total of 70 visits realized since 2019. Authorities have taken steps to address critical challenges related to the deprivation of liberty, including to tackle judicial delays and overcrowding in pre-trial detention centres. I encourage the authorities to take further measures to improve these conditions of detention, access to adequate food and water, and to health.

Mr. Vice-President,


In spite of signs of economic growth over the last two years, access to health, food, and education continue to face structural challenges such as understaffing and underfunding, disproportionately impacting women, indigenous and campesino communities.

As the High Commissioner has reiterated, sectoral sanctions have exacerbated pre-existing challenges and have had a disproportionate negative impact on the most vulnerable segments of the population. Once again, sanctions must be lifted.

Noting the recent announcement by the highest authorities to increase social benefits, additional efforts must be made to adjust the minimum wage to the cost of living. In this regard, I welcome the continuation of the tripartite Social Dialogue Forum organized by the Government with the support of the International Labour Organization.

I note however that no advancements have been made to amend legislation that criminalizes abortion; on the recognition of transpersons under the gender identity of their choice; and of same-sex marriages. 

Mr. Vice-President,

We hope that our Office soon be able to fully resume its work to serve people in the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela, and to strengthen our cooperation with the Venezuelan authorities based on mutual respect and frank and transparent dialogue, in strict compliance with the mandate of the Office.