With the purpose of maintaining efforts to monitor the Human Rights violations happening in Venezuela, the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) released a report that delivers an updated analysis from the “Human rights violations and abuses in the context of protests in the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela from 1 April to 31 July 2017” published in August 2017.
This report aims to promote a broader and long-term analysis that escapes the first main episodes in 2017. And, as access to the country was restricted to the UN, the content is based on 150 online interviews and meetings in Geneva (Switzerland) with victims and their families, witnesses, civil society representatives, journalists, lawyers, medical doctors and academics.
The information gathered by OHCHR indicates that there are patterns of political repression and of systematic human rights violations in all aspects: liberty and political rights, sexual and reproductive rights, health rights etc. And, in response, the report offers recommendations for the Venezuelan Government to meet and the Human Rights Council to monitor.
The main findings
Access to Justice
As reported by the families of protesters who were arrested or killed, the Judicial system lacks independence and impartiality to offer effective investigations and proceedings, since 54 warrants were issued since 2017 and only one formal trial has been conducted so far.
Excessive use of force
Security Operations, or Operations for the Liberation of the People (OLPs), have been reported to perform extrajudicial executions and the Bureau for Scientific, Criminal and Forensic Investigations, as responsible to conduct the investigations against these crimes and also as the main author of such actions, has been inconsequent.
570 persons, including 35 children, were arbitrarily detained from 1 August 2017 to 30 April 2018
The practice of detention is being used as a tool to undermine and suffocate protests as no legal guarantees are offered from the proceedings of people who are detained by the authorities. There have even been reported military trials to civilians. In comparison to the period analyzed in the first report, this update was able to conclude that the detentions were more selective used against political and social activists, students, human rights defenders, media workers, and members of the armed forces.
90 cases of persons subjected to torture
Ill-treatment and torture documented included electric shocks, severe beatings, rape and other forms of sexual violence, suffocation with plastic bags and chemicals, mock executions and water deprivation. For people deprived of their liberty in detention facilities, many human rights standards, such as access to drinking water, food and medical care has not been met.
OHCHR further documented recurrent violations of the rights to freedom of opinion, expression, peaceful assembly, and association. Civil society organizations working on human rights issues are also facing increasingly difficult conditions in which to operate and human rights defenders have been subjected to smear campaigns, threats, harassment and surveillance, and, in a few cases to arbitrary detention and ill-treatment or even torture, for carrying out their legitimate work
The deterioration of the health care system and HIV
The government capacity to import medicine – imports represented 95 per cent of the health supplies needed to run the public health care system – has been extremely flawed and suffered a 60 per cent cutback since 2014 that reaches in 2018 a 88 per cent shortage.
“almost 77 per cent of the 77,000 people living with HIV/AIDS did not have access to adequate treatment throughout 2017. 220 There were also no reagents to test the level of antibodies in their blood. At the end of 2017, the Institute only had four out of a list of 26 antiretroviral drugs in stock. 221 OHCHR also received reports indicating that pregnant women with HIV/AIDS had been giving birth without adequate measures and treatment to prevent infecting their babies.”
Other aspects that play to comprehend the wider state of the national health crisis is the migration of health providers to other countries, the shortage in pharmacies and exorbitant prices due to an ever-escalating inflation, the underfunding of public hospitals and clinics in order to fund the Misión Barrio Adentro, a preventive health services expansion to the poorest neighborhoods that bring about extremely poor conditions and denial of health care to the Venezuelan people to perform surgeries, ongoing hospital treatments and access to all sorts of medicines and medical supplies.