Human Lives Human Rights: The UN fact-finding mission has released the second report which has found that Venezuela’s justice system has played “a significant role” in the state’s repression of government critics.
The report says Venezuela’s judiciary lacked independence and had allowed serious human rights violations to go unchecked. Public officials have been able to commit crimes with impunity, it adds.
The Venezuelan government has not yet commented on the report.
The team conducted 177 interviews and analyzed 183 detentions of people who are, or whom the government perceives to be, opponents.
It found that detainees had been subjected to torture, including sexual violence, and that some had been “arbitrarily deprived of life”.
No high-level officials have been investigated or prosecuted in these cases, the report added.
One of those cases is that of student Juan Pablo Pernalete, who died after being hit with a teargas canister shot at close range by the National Guard during an antigovernmental protest in 2017.
The mission’s chairwoman, Marta Valiñas, said that “the independence of the judiciary has become deeply eroded, jeopardising its role in imparting justice and safeguarding individual rights”.
Sources from within the judiciary told the mission that judges routinely received orders from the Maduro government on how to decide judgements.
Ms Valiñas added that the investigation found “reasonable grounds to believe that instead of providing protection to victims of human rights violations and crimes, the Venezuelan justice system has played a significant role in the state’s repression of governmental opponents”.
The result, she said, was that public officials, including some at a high level, had been able to commit rights violations and crimes with impunity.
The mission said it had also found that judges had admitted information extracted under torture as evidence against defendants.
It added that judges had also returned torture victims to the very jails were they had been abused, which meant that some were subjected to more torture.