GENEVA – The United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights said on Monday that crimes against humanity may have been committed in Venezuela during anti-government protests.
In his opening address at the 36th session of the Human Rights Council, Zeid Ra’ad al Hussein urged the council to open an international investigation into the matter.
“My investigation suggests the possibility that crimes against humanity may have been committed,” said Zeid, adding that this could “only be confirmed by a subsequent criminal investigation.”
He said he supported the idea of a national Truth and Reconciliation Commission, and called on the international community to get involved and assist with the reconfiguration of the current mechanism, which he described as “inadequate.”
The diplomat also called for “an international investigation into the human rights violations in Venezuela.”
The official pointed out that Venezuela was a Member State of the UN council, and said Caracas had a responsibility to “uphold the highest standards in the promotion and protection of human rights.”
“There is a very real danger that tensions will further escalate, with the Government crushing democratic institutions and critical voices – including through criminal proceedings against opposition leaders, recourse to arbitrary detentions, excessive use of force, and ill-treatment of detainees, which in some cases amounts to torture,” he said.
Zeid’s observations came shortly before the intervention of Venezuela’s Foreign Minister Jorge Arreaza, and two weeks after his office published a report into human rights violations committed during anti-government protests between April 1- July 31, which, above all, scrutinized the actions of the security forces and military.
Arreaza, for his part, accused the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights of lying and offending his country by accusing it of serious crimes without any data.
He called on the UN to stop “aggression toward Venezuela” and blamed the opposition for the violence and deaths of 121 people during the protests.
The UN report released at the end of August detailed the use of excessive force, possible extra-judicial killings, ill-treatment and even torture, arbitrary detentions and temporary forced disappearances, illegal and violent private property searches, military trials against civilians and attacks on journalists and political opponents.