Statement: Mass arrests and killings of protesters in Venezuela

41st Session of the UN Human Rights Council
Interactive Dialogue on the report of the High Commissioner on Venezuela 

CIVICUS thanks the High Commissioner for her report, which shows how deeply the human rights situation has deteriorated in Venezuela.  The escalating political crisis has precipitated a significant increase in violations of civic freedoms: according to the local NGO Foro Penal, as of May 2019 there were 857 political prisoners. Many have reportedly been tortured. Reports of serious reprisals against human rights defenders and humanitarians show the increasing danger of simply carrying out legitimate work to provide humanitarian support in the midst of a crisis, or protect human rights as violations escalate.

CIVICUS is deeply concerned by mass arrests and killings of protesters during demonstrations. Since the beginning of the year, 60 protesters have reportedly been killed in the protests. Of five killed by security forces during protests calling for the resignation of Nicolas Maduro on 30 April and 1 May, three were not yet 18.

Venezuela’s indigenous communities have been among those hardest-hit by the humanitarian crisis. A siege of the Pemon indigenous community, imposed after the community attempted to help humanitarian aid enter the country, forced more than 700 hundred members of the community to leave their lands. At least 7 people were killed and 62 arbitrarily arrested during the confrontation. We call for the special protection of indigenous communities.

We are concerned by politically-motivated internet restrictions and the blockage of online content, including that of BBC and CNN International. Online censorship has affected over 20 online media outlets, severely restricting citizens’ right to information.

We welcome the agreement reached between the office of the High Commissioner and the Venezuelan Government for a team of human rights officers based in the country, and we hope this is the first step towards enhanced monitoring and reporting on the worsening human rights crisis in Venezuela, including measures to ensure accountability for perpetrators and reparations to the thousands who have fallen victim to human rights abuses.

We echo the High Commissioner’s remarks in her June statement that ‘the people of Venezuela cannot afford further deterioration of the situation. We ask the High Commissioner what immediate steps the Council and its member states can take to support those in Venezuela who are advocating for the protection of their rights and those seeking redress for the harm they have suffered?