The set of reports submitted by interested third parties for the Universal Periodic Review (UPR) of Venezuela, includes that of the Ombudsman. When presenting the list of contributions, the Summary prepared by the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) notes that an asterisk indicates a national human rights institution with category “A”. There is no asterisk next to the name of the Venezuelan national human rights institution.
This is explained because in March 2015, the Accreditation Subcommittee of the International Coordination Committee of National Human Rights Institutions (SCA – CIC) carried out a special review of the performance of the Venezuelan Ombudsman (VO), after which It recommended downgrading the accreditation of the institution to category B, due to its lack of autonomy and independence, in breach of the provisions of the Paris Principles regarding the status and operation of national institutions for the protection and promotion of human rights. In May 2016, a new review was carried out, in order to determine if the VO had accepted the observations made by the SCA – CIC, ratifying the downgrade to Category B. The VO challenged the recommendation, which was ratified by the SCA – CIC. in October of the same year.
The move to category B means that the VO lost the right to vote in the Global Alliance of National Institutions for the Promotion and Protection of Human Rights (GANHRI) and also lost its ability to participate with a voice in other spaces of the UN human rights system, such as sessions of the Human Rights Council and treaty bodies.
Six years after the change in rating, the VO has not changed in its lack of independence. The current Ombudsman was imposed by the illegal National Constituent Assembly, outside the constitutional and legal mechanisms provided for the selection of this official. His performance has also not shown signs of independence, which can be seen in the report submitted to the UPR.
The first thing that draws attention to the report is the absence of quantitative data to support its assertions about supposed progress in areas such as the social inclusion of those deprived of liberty, gender-based violence, torture, the right to life, and the reduction of early pregnancy, childbirth protection, rights to health, education and food security. These unsubstantiated claims contrast with the figures presented in all these areas by more than 115 independent civil society organizations.
Only in one area, the VO presents a figure, assuring that the government “has progressively achieved pacification and the establishment of the penitentiary system in 100% of the female detention centers, in the socio-educational care entities for adolescents in conflict with the criminal law and 98% of male prisons”. However, the source that would support this statement refers to a press release whose data is not verifiable.
A second characteristic of the contribution of the VO is the presentation of unsupported information on the activity of the government, together with narratives on the functioning of the VO itself, in such a way that it is not clear if the report is a description of the administration performance or a report on the activities of the VO. In any case, it does little to meet the objective of the contributions to the UPR, which is none other than to assess whether the State complied with the commitments made in the previous cycle.
Finally, in line with the narrative that the government has tried to impose in recent years, the VO tries to present the existence of a structural crisis as a result of unilateral coercive measures, which would be responsible for the loss of resources, but without any critical analysis of the pre-existing crisis caused by the drastic drop in resources produced by acts of great corruption.
In short, the DPV continues to defend those who hold power, turning their backs on the population, corroborating the validity of the decision on its classification as a non-independent institution.