On Thursday and Friday, the socialist government of Venezuela stood before the United Nations Committee Against Torture to answer for more than 5,000 complaints of human rights violations over the last decade—3,000 of which occurred in 2014.
El Universal, Venezuela’s largest newspaper, reports that the committee criticized Venezuela’s representative for what appeared to be minimal actions taken to investigate or discuss instances in which state agents or proxies were accused of committing acts of torture. The UN’s official rapporteur on the matter, Jens Modvig, heavily questioned the nation’s representative:
There are allegations that during the February disturbances there were over 3,000 detentions, and that those people were stripped naked, threatened with raping, they were not allowed to receive medical care or to call a lawyer or their family, plus other allegations of torture. What measures were applied to prevent torture?
José Vicente Rangel Avalos the Venezuelan vice-minister of Interior Policy and Citizen’s Security offered few answers, except for insisting that Venezuela “respects the human rights of all.” Avalos also did not directly answer questions about the use of political appointees and assorted affiliates of the Socialist Bolivarian Party in the judiciary, which UN officials described as a significant warning sign that Venezuela lacked free and fair judges. The committee also questioned the designation of political appointments to that nation’s Human Rights Committee, established in April in response to complaints from citizens that police and affiliated gangs were attacking unarmed student protesters.
The UN committee urged the Venezuelan government to extend an invitation to UN observers to Caracas and other parts of the nation to witness first-hand the execution of justice in that nation. The government did not do so immediately, so the hearing’s initial effect is minimal.
The UN’s calling Venezuela to task on a variety of human rights violations does serve to remind the international community, so overwhelmed this year with various human rights crises, of the socialist government’s many abuses during the protests between February and April of this year. In addition to hundreds of shootings during those protests—largely triggered by the arrest of Popular Will opposition party leader Leopoldo López—protesters continuously turned to social media to share proof of beatings, torture, and disfigurement. In one especially egregious case, two male student protesters alleged that they were beaten and raped with rifles while under temporary detention without due process.