At the end of December 2021, the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) published the National Report (NR) of the Venezuelan State for the third cycle of the Universal Periodic Review (UPR), which was refers, among other issues, to the fulfillment of international commitments by Venezuela. Next, the scope of compliance with these obligations is analyzed, with emphasis on the country’s cooperation with the UN human rights system and the access of civil society to inclusive processes of participation in the design and implementation of plans and policies. on human rights and the role of the Ombudsman’s Office.
Although the NR claims to have accepted 193 recommendations and to have assumed 24 voluntary commitments in the second UPR cycle (2016), it does not provide specific information on the implementation of these recommendations and commitments. In contrast, the Compilation prepared by the OHCHR on the fulfillment of international commitments by Venezuela, shows policies, practices and regulatory gaps that expose the lack of fulfillment of many of the accepted recommendations.
The NR asserts that it has consulted organizations and social movements for the implementation of the recommendations of the second cycle of the UPR, for the preparation of the report for the third cycle, for the preparation, implementation and evaluation of the first national human rights plan and for the preparation the national system for monitoring international human rights instruments; likewise, it claims to have held several annual human rights congresses. However, independent human rights defenders consulted by AlertaVenezuela, affirmed that they had not been summoned to participate in any of these initiatives.
AlertaVenezuela insisted on several occasions with the OHCHR team in Venezuela on the need to incorporate the component of broad participation of CSOs in the processes of preparation, execution and evaluation of the National Human Rights Plan and in the follow-up mechanism. Although the OHCHR team provided technical assistance to the State on these matters, there is no public information on the specific results or progress made by the State, nor is there evidence that the authorities have welcomed the recommendations on the participation of independent CSOs.
The NR refers to the independent character of the Office of the Ombudsman (DoP) and its “adherence to the Paris Principles”, ignoring that the DoP was downgraded to category B in 2016, and that in 2017 the unconstitutional national constituent assembly appointed a new ombudsman without complying with the selection procedure established by the Constitution. Both the independent international fact-finding mission and the OHCHR team in Venezuela have confirmed the institution’s lack of independence, as reflected in the Compilation (para. 11).
The NR affirms that the State “recognizes and protects the work carried out by non-governmental organizations that work in the field of promotion and protection of human rights, as well as that of human rights defenders”, when there is a progressive and permanent closure of spaces for CSO work, international cooperation to human rights organizations is criminalized, there are defenders in exile, imprisoned or facing judicial processes without guarantees, as has been repeatedly denounced by the heads of special procedures.
Although the NR maintains that “93% of the 213 actions of the [national human rights] plan were fully or partially implemented”, the absence of indicators and participation processes prevent corroborating the veracity of this statement. Nor is it possible to confirm the existence of a national system for monitoring international human rights instruments, since there is no access to the alleged system or to information on its operation, other than a 2019 press release on the Foreign Ministry’s website.
Despite the fact that the NR makes several assertions about an alleged cooperation with the treaty bodies, special procedures and the office of the High Commissioner, the truth is that there is a delay in the presentation of some reports, main treaties and optional protocols without ratification, the High Commissioner and her Office have been subject to disqualifications and threats of suspension of their presence in the country. Furthermore, despite the fact that the visits of the special procedures are an integral part of the Letter of Understanding between the OHCHR and the State, after more than two years of the OHCHR’s presence in the country, there has only been one visit.
Finally, regarding international cooperation with other multilateral bodies, the NR mentions Venezuela’s participation in various regional mechanisms; however, none of them have functions of promoting and protecting human rights. Meanwhile, the State remains outside the inter-American human rights system, after having denounced the American Convention in 2012, to which is added the systematic non-compliance with the recommendations of the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights and the judgments of the Inter-American Court.
AlertaVenezuela warns that the presence of the OHCHR in Venezuela is used by the government to try to pretend a cooperation that does not exist, at the same time that it exerts pressure on the Office of the High Commissioner and threatens to suspend its stay in the country, if it persists in pointing out the human rights violations identified by the Office.