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The Human Rights Council must continue monitoring and demanding on Venezuela

Venezuela before the 55th period of the Human Rights Council in Geneva.

Within the framework of the 55th session of the Human Rights Council (HRC), oral updates from the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) and the Independent International Fact-Finding Mission on Venezuela (FFMV) took place on March 19 and 20. Both statements agreed on the worsening of the human rights situation in the country and requested the international community to continue the work of monitoring and protecting the Venezuelan population in the context of the upcoming presidential elections.

On March 19, Deputy High Commissioner Nada Al-Nashif rejected the suspension of the work of the OHCHR and the expulsion of its team on the ground, pointing out that they are “measures incompatible with the terms of the Letter of Understanding agreed between the Government and [her] office”. Both in her statement and in the dialogue with the HRC, she expressed the desire to resume cooperation in the service of the Venezuelan population “and in strict compliance with the mandate of the Office.” In this regard, she reiterated that the organization will maintain “monitoring of the human rights situation as ordered by the Council,” relying on the work of all the relevant actors with which it interacts.

The message from the OHCHR against the expulsion and an eventual conditional return of her team worths to be highlighted, especially amid negotiations with the government that remain secret and without a completion date. The OHCHR clarified that it will not cross the red line of circumventing the mandate given by the HRC, even from outside. These statements were followed by at least 11 HRC countries calling for the return of the presence on the ground and/or the resumption of cooperation with the office. Likewise, the statement of the High Commissioner and the support she received from the HRC opens a commitment to guarantee monitoring and protection functions even remotely and, under the leadership of the High Commissioner, to present to the HRC a pending report that “includes an assessment of the implementation of the recommendations formulated in the previous reports of the Council”, as mandated by its resolution 51/29.

On March 20, the president of the FFMV Marta Valiñas held that Venezuela is in a “phase of reactivation of the most violent form of repression by the authorities,” in which the “Mission observes a repetition of the same patterns of violation of human rights against opponents or perceived as such, which includes human rights defenders (…).” She also stated that the violations documented in recent months against different actors imply a deterioration of the civic and democratic space, rejecting, as the OHCHR did, the draft of the “NGO LAW” and the arrests against Javier Tarazona and Rocío San Miguel. As a note of contrast, while the OHCHR called for resuming the Barbados’ agenda to ensure free presidential elections and enhance civic space, the FFMV recalled that the ICC Appeals Chamber confirmed the authorization for the resumption of the investigation into crimes against humanity in Venezuela and that most crimes documented in its previous reports remain in impunity.

It is worth mentioning that during both interactive dialogues the representatives of the HRC jointly highlighted the work of the FFMV and the OHCHR. In the dialogue with the Deputy High Commissioner, delegations not only requested the return of the OHCHR but also the entry into the territory of the FFMV. In the dialogue with the FFMV, several countries requested entry into the Mission, as well as reestablishing cooperation with the OHCHR. There were even countries such as Argentina, Ecuador and Paraguay that expressed in their statements the complementary nature of the OHCHR and the FFMV, which in turn stress the need to extend the mandate of both international mechanisms.

As usual, Venezuela used the space of the HRC to disqualify the OHCHR and more harshly the FFMV, dedicating another press release to it. This sustained discrediting of multilateralism keeps an internal correlation with respect to the treatment that Venezuelans receive: a few hours after ending the dialogue with the FFMV, it was learned of the arbitrary detention of two more members of María Corina Machado’s team. The opposition candidate participated online in the interactive dialogue with the Mission and requested the support of the international community to pave the electoral path in the country, so the recent events could qualify as retaliation for cooperating with the UN.

According to a video published on the social media X, state security agents forcibly entered Vente Venezuela party activists Henry Alviarez and Dignora Hernández in a van, minutes before voices were heard crying for “help.” Shortly thereafter, Attorney General Tarek William Saab – once again identified by the FFMV as a repressive agent of the government – reported that these citizens were detained and expressed in a defiant tone “let’s see what those NGOs paid by USAID will say, and if they are enforced disappearances.” These facts show that electoral repression in Venezuela continues to escalate and is increasingly stark.

AlertaVenezuela calls on the international community to redouble its endeavors in scrutinizing and denouncing political repression against the civic and democratic space in Venezuela and urges that coordinated measures be adopted at the highest level to demand the accomplishment of the Barbados agreements and facilitate mechanisms of protection for people facing situations of imminent risk.