A new report from the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (UNHCHR) released Thursday has pointed out that the Venezuelan regime of Nicolás Maduro continues to apply systematic abuse and torture, particularly to political opponents.
Former Chile's two-time President and current UN High Commissioner Michelle Bachelet have signed the document which states that “The Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights continued to receive credible reports of torture or cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment.”
The report also mentions “beatings, electric shocks, sexual violence, and threats of rape” and the lack of knowledge regarding “any action was taken by the National Commission for the Prevention of Torture between June 1, 2020, and April 30, 2021,″ to reverse that situation.
Bachelet's office has also mentioned new cases of people subjected to forced disappearances, during which they were held incommunicado and the authorities refused to share their whereabouts with their defenders or their families. These practices expose detainees to a greater risk of ill-treatment, says the agency.
Sexual violence against women in pre-trial detention has also been denounced, in addition to the fact that most facilities are not adapted to meet gender-specific norms and detainees are often watched by men.
“On March 13, a Barinas State Police officer killed a woman in police custody, after she allegedly refused to participate in sexual acts,” the UN document said. Bachelet's agency has called for the prosecution of the officer allegedly involved in the incident and for the investigation of other allegations of sexual violence and that those responsible be prosecuted.
The report also warns that the whereabouts of several people are unknown, including Lieutenant Colonel Juan Antonio Hurtado Campos, who has been detained since September 2018, and Hugo Enrique Marino Salas, under arrest since April 2019.
Bachelet also denounced the systematic violation of the rights to liberty, to a trial without undue delay, to a fair trial and legal assistance, citing at least 12 cases in which people were detained without an arrest warrant and not under in flagrante delicto circumstances, as well as the routine resort to preventive detentions, especially in a covid-19 pandemic context.
“The dynamics and practices observed … in previous reports continue to raise concern,” Bachelet said. “After having reported cases of torture or ill-treatment to the courts, the detainees were returned to the custody of those allegedly responsible for the reported ill-treatment. In some cases, the alleged perpetrators have been called to testify against the victims in the criminal proceedings against them.”
Judges or prosecutors have systematically failed to take measures to protect the alleged victims or address concerns related to due process, the UN document details.
The report also highlights the precarious situation in the detention centres where inmates are poorly fed and have restrictions on receiving visits from family members, as well as the recurrence of deaths while in custody, especially due to the high incidence of tuberculosis, malnutrition and other diseases.
Regarding the next regional elections to be held in Venezuela in November, Bachelet's office has said that the Maduro regime induces people to vote both before and during the electoral process. According to the complaint, “the public authorities at the national and local level made statements promising social benefits or threatening to revoke the voters' access to social assistance, among other things to food baskets and monetary subsidies. It was reported that employees of companies and state institutions were also threatened with being fired if they did not vote.