Skip to main content

Statements Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights

Oral update on the human rights situation in the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela

10 March 2020

43rd session of the Human Rights Council

Michelle Bachelet, United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights Geneva, 10 March 2020

Geneva, 10 March 2020


Madam Vice- President,

Since my last update on the human rights situation in the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela, political tensions and acts of violence by security forces and government supporters against opposition parliamentarians have continued. Since 5 January, the Security Forces have made it difficult for opposition members of Parliament to gain access to the headquarters of the National Assembly.

I am concerned by the arrest of parliamentarian Gilber Caro and his assistant, Victor Ugas, at the end of 2019. Congressman Caro continues to be deprived of his liberty without the place of his detention being officially known. Congressman Ismael Leon was also detained and is under house arrest.

My Office has also documented attacks on political opponents, demonstrators and journalists, without preventive actions by the security forces to avoid them. On 11 February, at least 12 journalists covering the arrival of Juan Guaidó were attacked, while on 29 February, alleged members of armed groups attacked demonstrators and journalists who had gathered at a political event in Lara.

We have also recorded incidents of raids on the headquarters of a political party, NGOs, and media offices.

The attacks are often accompanied by a rhetoric that stigmatizes, exposes and discredits the victims and justifies violence.

I am concerned about the announcement of planned legislation to sanction human rights organizations that receive funding from abroad, as well as public exposure of some NGOs.

We have also documented harassment against some university authorities, so I consider positive the decision by the Supreme Court of Justice to suspend the August 2019 measure that threatened university autonomy.

Restrictions on union freedom persist through evictions and the arbitrary detention of union leaders.

In addition, my Office continues to receive allegations of cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment at the headquarters of the General Directorate of Military CounterIntelligence in Caracas.

With regard to economic and social rights, the imposition of new economic sanctions is concerning, notably those affecting airline CONVIASA, as well as sanctions on the oil industry, which reduce the Government's resources for social spending.

Despite exceptions to allow imports of medicines, food and humanitarian supplies, public services and the general population continue to suffer from the impact of over compliance from the financial sector.

I would like to make a special comment, as a mother and a paediatrician.

The need to address the situation of Venezuelan children who require transplants continues to be urgent. To date, 38 children are on the waiting list in Venezuela and six are still waiting to be treated in Argentina. Some have regrettably lost their lives while waiting for a transplant. According to information received, sanctions have hindered the transfer of resources for treatments. This is exacerbated by the critical situation at the J.M. de los Ríos Children's Hospital in Caracas. At the end of 2019, only 21 per cent of its beds were operational.

A recent survey by the World Food Programme indicated that 2.3 million people in Venezuela are severely food insecure and 7 million are moderately food insecure.

Another known issue is that of people leaving the country.

According to the UN Regional Platform, 4.9 million people have left the country. While I recognise the enormous efforts of the countries in the region, I also regret the statements made by some authorities, in some countries, which could justify or incite xenophobia and violence against migrants and refugees.

I am confident that the necessary political agreements can be reached for the renewal of the National Electoral Council and to ensure inclusive, transparent and credible elections.

I appreciate all efforts towards that goal, and repeat my call for all parties to act with the heightened sense of purpose that the country deserves, in order to avoid further escalation in political confrontation that could lead to violence.

Thank you.