Venezuela’s intelligence agencies are committing crimes against humanity as part of a plan orchestrated at the highest levels of government to suppress dissent, UN experts have concluded.
A team investigating alleged violations in Venezuela said it discovered how members of the intelligence services implemented orders from President Nicolás Maduro and others to stifle opposition.
“In doing so, serious crimes and human rights violations are being committed, including acts of torture and sexual violence,” said Marta Valinas, chairperson of the Independent International Fact-Finding Mission of the United Nations. UN on Venezuela, in a press release.
The mission, which was established by the UN Human Rights Council in 2019, had already warned in its first report two years ago that Maduro and senior government ministers were behind probable crimes against humanity.
And the situation has not improved since then, according to the mission, which will face a council vote in early October on whether it can continue its work.
“Venezuela still faces a deep human rights crisis,” Valins said.
In its latest report, mission members looked at chains of command and how intelligence services have been instrumentalized to drown out opposing voices.
“President Nicolás Maduro, supported by other high-level authorities, stands out as the main architects in the design, implementation and maintenance of machinery for the purpose of suppressing dissent,” the report said.
He pointed to how Maduro himself and others in his inner circle were in some cases involved in “target selection” for detention by intelligence operatives, including political opponents.
The mission – which has never had access to Venezuela – based its findings on nearly 250 confidential interviews, as well as analysis of legal documents.
She said she had documented 122 cases of victims who had been subjected to torture, sexual violence and/or other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment” by agents of the Direction générale du contre-espionnage militaire (DGCIM).
“Torture was carried out at its Boleita headquarters in Caracas and in a network of clandestine detention centers across the country,” he said.
The mission said it had also investigated at least 51 cases of torture and ill-treatment of detainees by the Bolivarian National Intelligence Service (Sebin) since 2014.
These cases concerned “opposition politicians, journalists, protesters and human rights defenders”, he said, adding that most of the abuses took place at the El detention center. Helicoid in Caracas.
Former Sebin employees had told investigators that in some cases “the torture was ordered directly by President Maduro,” the report said, listing torture methods including electric shocks, asphyxiation and postures. stress.
“Both Sebin and the DGCIM have widely used sexual and gender-based violence to torture and humiliate its detainees,” the mission said.
Experts have lamented that Venezuelan authorities have failed to hold perpetrators accountable.
“Human rights abuses by state intelligence agencies, orchestrated at the highest political level, have taken place in a climate of almost total impunity,” mission member Francisco Cox said in a statement. the press release.
In a separate report released on Tuesday, the mission also focused on violations of the rights of local populations in the gold-mining areas of Bolívar state in southern Venezuela.
“State and non-state actors have committed human rights violations and crimes against the local population in the struggle for control of mining areas,” he said, pointing to killings, disappearances , extortion and sexual violence.
Experts lamented that authorities not only failed to prevent and investigate these abuses, but appear to have actively collaborated with non-state actors in parts of the region.
Patricia Tappata Valdez, a member of the mission, described the situation in Bolívar as “deeply troubling”.
“Local populations, including indigenous peoples, are caught up in the violent battle between the state and armed criminal groups for control of the gold.