Global civil society alliance, CIVICUS condemns the Government of Venezuela’s repeated harassment of civil society members who engage with UN human rights mechanisms. Several civil society leaders are currently being subjected to a smear campaign by state authorities for raising legitimate concerns at the UN about Venezuela’s deteriorating human rights record.
Recently, on 2 July, during ‘The Mallet’, a weekly television programme hosted by the current President of the Venezuelan National Assembly, Diosdado Cabello, several civil society members were subjected to targeted vilification. Among other slanderous claims, Mr Cabello accused activists, who had presented information to the UN Human Rights Committee on June 29 and 30, of conspiring against the state and defending the interests of foreign entities. The UN Human Rights Committee is a body of independent experts tasked with overseeing the compliance of states with the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR). Venezuela is required to report periodically to the Human Rights Committee on progress made by it in realising the rights enshrined in the ICCPR.
Of particular concern are indications that the activists who participated in the UN Human Rights Committee hearings in Geneva were placed under surveillance, including during trainings hosted by international civil society groups in advance of the Committee meeting. During the programme, Mr Cabello alleged that "cooperating patriots" —anonymous informers— had provided information about the activities of several civil society leaders including Feliciano Reyna from CIVILIS Human Rights; Rafael Uzcátegui from Provea; Carlos Correa from Public Space; Alfredo Romero and Tamara Sujú from the Penal Forum; Ligia Bolivar from the Forum for Life; Humberto Prado from the Venezuelan Prison Watch; and Rocio San Miguel from Citizen Watch.
Weeks earlier on 3 June, Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro made similarly disparaging accusations on state public television VTV, following the participation of several civil society groups in Venezuela´s examination before the UN Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights in Geneva, Switzerland. Among other inflammatory statements, President Maduro accused the NGOs leaders of being “bandits…who earn thousands of dollars for ranting against our beloved Venezuela.”
CIVICUS urges Venezuela’s government to engage in genuine dialogue with civil society to address the country’s pressing human rights concerns.