CubaBrief: Venezuela’s rights violations condemned at the UNHRC and a fact finding mission called for, but wider context needs to be addressed

Good news today from Geneva. After years of advocacy by non-governmental organizations for the UN Human Rights Council to condemn human rights violations in Venezuela and establish an independent commission of Inquiry, the international rights body by a vote of 19 in favor, 7 against, and 21 abstentions earlier this afternoon strongly condemned human rights violations in Venezuela and called for the creation of a fact-finding mission to investigate human rights violations and crimes against humanity that are taking place in Venezuela.

Erika Guevara-Rosas, Americas director at Amnesty International welcomed the passage of this resolution. Ms. Guevara-Rosas also urged that “the UN Fact-Finding mission will need to address the wider context in which the policy of state repression takes place.”

However both the UN Human Rights Council resolution and Amnesty International’s statement, fail to mention the negative role Cuban authorities are playing in Venezuela, and this must be taken into account when addressing the “wider context” of what is taking place in Venezuela, and in the wider region.

Angus Berwick  in the August 22, 2019 Reuters, “Special Report: How Cuba taught Venezuela to quash military dissentreported that the governments of Cuba and Venezuela signed two agreements, documents reviewed by the news agency, in May 2008, that gave Cuba’s armed forces and intelligence services wide latitude in the South American country to:

  • Train soldiers in Venezuela

  • Review and restructure parts of the Venezuelan military

  • Train Venezuelan intelligence agents in Havana

  • And change the intelligence service’s mission from spying on foreign rivals to surveilling the country’s own soldiers, officers, and even senior commanders.

Havana Times reported on December 8, 2018 that the Organization of American States Secretary General, Luis Almagro, “assured that there has been a ‘Cuban presence’ in tortures committed in Venezuela. ‘It is estimated that the Cuban presence in Venezuela is 46,000 people, an occupation force that teaches to torture, to repress, to do intelligence tasks, civil documentation, migration.'”

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OAS Secretary General Luis Almagro describes the Cuban presence in Venezuela as an occupation force.

One cannot analyze the “wider context” in Venezuela without taking the disproportionate and negative role of Cuba into account. It is also important to take into consideration the practices of the Castro regime in Cuba with respect to human rights because those practices are being implemented in Venezuela. According to the Committee to Protect Journalists in their 2019 report, Cuba is the tenth most censored country in the world. Over the past sixty years the dictatorship in Cuba has had hundreds of thousands of political prisoners, and there are still prisoners of conscience in Cuba today. In six decades of absolute rule the Castro regime only permitted the International Committee of the Red Cross access to Cuban prisons over the course of a few months in 1988-1989. There have been no visits in the past thirty years.

The human rights crisis in Venezuela today is the result of the international community’s tolerance, and in recent years acceptance, of both the continuing dictatorship and the grave human rights situation in Cuba. The regime in Cuba is not part of the solution in Venezuela, but has been deeply involved in creating the human rights crisis there. The High Commissioner for Human Rights should call for Cuban troops and intelligence officers to leave Venezuela as a positive step to improving the situation.

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Amnesty International, September 27, 2019

Venezuela: UN human rights body backs victims’ hopes for justice

27 September 2019, 08:37 UTC

Today, the UN Human Rights Council adopted a resolution creating a Fact-Finding Mission to investigate grave human rights violations and crimes under international law ongoing in Venezuela, sending a strong message to victims and perpetrators alike that impunity won’t be allowed to prevail, said Amnesty International.

“We welcome the action taken today by members of the UN Human Rights Council. It was high time for the international community, led by countries in the Americas, to listen to the long-forgotten victims of what is an unprecedented human rights disaster in the region,” said Erika Guevara-Rosas, Americas director at Amnesty International.

The resolution dispatches, as a matter of urgency, a Fact-Finding mission to investigate the policy of repression implemented by Nicolas Maduro’s government, including extrajudicial executions, torture and other ill treatment, enforced disappearances and arbitrary detentions, with a view to ensuring full accountability for perpetrators and justice for victims. It does this as a response to the multidimensional human rights crisis laid out in the resolution, including violations of civil and political rights and also the rights to food, health and an adequate standard of living. This severe human rights crisis not only affects millions within Venezuela, but also has a regional impact. Over 4.3 million people have been forced to leave their country due to massive human rights violations, most of whom are now in other countries in Latin America and the Caribbean.

We welcome the action taken today by members of the UN Human Rights Council. It was high time for the international community, led by countries in the Americas, to listen to the long-forgotten victims of what is an unprecedented human rights disaster in the region
Erika Guevara-Rosas, Americas director at Amnesty International

“In fulfilling its mandate, the UN Fact-Finding mission will need to address the wider context in which the policy of state repression takes place: a dire humanitarian emergency in which essential human rights such as food, water and health have become out-of-reach luxuries for most people in Venezuela,” said Erika Guevara-Rosas.

“This resolution responds to calls for accountability made by victims, civil society organisations and states in the region, as they have not found any remedy in national courts and the government of Nicolas Maduro has isolated itself from any form of regional scrutiny.”

Iran presented a second resolution focused on the strengthening of cooperation by the Venezuelan government with the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Michelle Bachelet, and her Office, which was also adopted by vote.

“Cooperation and accountability are not mutually exclusive; they are complementary. Any solution to the current crisis must put victims first and offer truth, justice and reparations, and guarantees that it won’t happen again,” said Erika Guevara-Rosas. “In addition to engaging constructively with the newly created Fact-Finding mission, we hope for robust follow-up by the UN Human Rights Council should Venezuela continue to refuse to engage meaningfully with the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights.”

Since 2014, Amnesty International has been documenting and raising alarm over the grave human rights crisis in Venezuela. In 2017, it established the existence of a policy of repression being used by authorities, under the command of Nicolás Maduro, against those who could be perceived as critics or dissidents of the government. Since then, it has been demanding authorities cease this policy and commits to protecting human rights.

In fulfilling its mandate, the UN Fact-Finding mission will need to address the wider context in which the policy of state repression takes place: a dire humanitarian emergency in which essential human rights such as food, water and health have become out-of-reach luxuries for most people in Venezuela

Erika Guevara-Rosas, Americas director at Amnesty International

In 2014, Amnesty International condemned the abusive use of force against participants in mass public protests, and later in 2015, the impunity the perpetrators of those violations were benefitting from. After a mission to Caracas in 2016, the organisation raised concern over the social and economic crisis being endured in the country. In 2017, during and after a period of social protest, Amnesty International documented politically motivated arbitrary detentions, abusive and intentionally lethal use of force, attacks and illegal raids on homes, amongst other violations.

This policy of repression continued into 2019, including since January targeted extrajudicial executions. Throughout this crisis, the humanitarian emergency continued largely unattended, with over 4.3 million people fleeing the country since 2015, at least 7 million in need of immediate humanitarian relief in the country, and an increasingly fragile provision of basic services like water and electricity.

There is little prospect of justice or accountability at national or regional levels. Those who raise concerns, or seek justice for crimes committed by the authorities, put themselves at high risk of violent reprisals, including arbitrary detention, torture and even extrajudicial executions. The generalized lack of independence of the judiciary in Venezuela and the frequent interference of the executive branch in their work, in a context of deep political polarization, has given way to the abusive and arbitrary use of criminal law as a mechanism to stop and prosecute people who have critical opinions on the policies adopted by the Maduro government.

https://www.amnesty.org/en/latest/news/2019/09/venezuela-un-human-rights-body-backs-victims-hopes-for-justice/

Below is the debate over the resolution on Venezuela that was held at the UN Human Rights Council earlier today.