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Venezuelan Leaders Implicated in Crimes Against Humanity by U.N. Investigators

作者:admin 2020-09-17

ImageVenezuelan Leaders Implicated in Crimes Against Humanity by U.N. Investigators

The government had also stepped up cooperation with the United Nations office for human rights over the past year, allowing officials to visit a number of prisons and interview detainees and promising to investigate allegations of extrajudicial killings and the deaths of anti-government protesters.

Michelle Bachelet, the United Nations’ high commissioner for human rights, said in a statement Monday that her staff last week visited the main detention centers of the Bolivarian National Intelligence Service and the Directorate General of Military Counter-Intelligence in Venezuela. The visits represented a “remarkable leap forward” that would lead to improvements for detainees, she said.

But the government offered no such cooperation to members of the panel, an independent body reporting to the Human Rights Council. Panel members said they were not allowed to visit Venezuela and received no response to repeated requests for meetings and information.

The panel based its findings on 274 interviews conducted by telephone and secure video links with victims, family members, lawyers, members of the judiciary and former and serving members of the security services as well as certified videos, satellite imagery and social media content.

It said that arrested opposition activists and critics were taken to the headquarters of the intelligence service and other buildings in the capital, Caracas, and were tortured with beatings, asphyxiation with plastic bags, cuts and mutilations, and electric shocks.

In seven reported cases interrogators used sexual violence, including rape, against male and female detainees in a bid to elicit confessions, implicate other people or to punish and humiliate them.

An employee of the intelligence service told the panel that orders about who was to be investigated often came from Mr. Maduro and Diosdado Cabello, the head of the ruling Socialist Party and a prominent political ally of the president. Torture was carried out in the presence or under the supervision of senior officials, including the chief of the Strategic Investigations Directorate and other high-ranking commissioners in the unit.

The General Directorate of Military Counter-Intelligence similarly targeted military personnel and associated civilians suspected of involvement in rebellions or coup attempts, the panel said. It cited the case of former Navy Captain Rafael Acosta Arévalo, and said it believed his death in the agency’s custody in 2019 was a result of torture.

The panel said orders about who was to be investigated often came from Diosdado Cabello, a prominent political ally of the president.Credit...Ariana Cubillos/Associated Press

The panel said President Maduro and the ministers of interior and defense were included in a list of 45 people who it said should be investigated and prosecuted either for carrying out crimes or for giving the orders, setting policies or providing resources that enabled them.

“Commanding officers, including high-level authorities within the intelligence and military counterintelligence services, had full knowledge of this pattern of crimes, which often occurred in the very buildings where they worked,” it said.

The panel investigated 140 cases related to the crackdown on crime that had resulted in the deaths of 413 people, mostly young men, many of them shot at point blank range. It concluded the killings were “part of a policy to eliminate unwanted members of society under the cover of combating crime,” Ms. Valiñas said.

“These extrajudicial executions cannot be attributed to a lack of discipline among the security forces,” she added. “High-ranking officials had effective command and control over the perpetrators and knowledge of their actions but failed to prevent or repress the violations.”

The government officially phased out the anti-crime operations in 2017 but extrajudicial killings by the Special Action Forces have continued. The unit should be dismantled, the panel said, and those in control of security agencies should be held accountable.

“It is still a major problem that the government must address,” Ms. Valiñas told reporters.

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