Venezuela intelligence agencies guilty of crimes against humanity – UN report

Photo: Rayner Pena


United Nations mission says President Nicolás Maduro and others ordered ‘grave crimes’ including torture to stifle opposition.

By The Guardian

Sep 20, 2022

Venezuela’s intelligence agencies are committing crimes against humanity as part of a plan orchestrated at the highest level of government to repress dissent, UN experts have concluded.

A team tasked with investigating alleged violations in Venezuela said it had uncovered how members of intelligence services implemented orders by President Nicolás Maduro and others in a scheme to stifle opposition.

“In doing so, grave crimes and human rights violations are being committed, including acts of torture and sexual violence,” Marta Valiñas, chair of the UN’s Independent International Fact-Finding Mission on Venezuela, said in a statement.

The mission, which was created by the United Nations human rights council in 2019, already warned in its first report two years ago that Maduro and top government ministers were behind probable crimes against humanity.

And the situation has not improved since then, according to the mission, which will face a council vote in early October on whether it can continue its work.

“Venezuela is still facing a profound human rights crisis,” Valiñas said.

In its latest report, the mission members delved into the chains of command, and how intelligence services were instrumentalised to quash opposing voices.

“President Nicolás Maduro, supported by other high-level authorities, stand out as the main architects in the design, implementation and maintenance of a machinery with the purpose of repressing dissent,” the report said.

It pointed to how Maduro himself and others in his inner circle were in some cases involved in “selecting targets” for detention by intelligence agents, including political opponents.

The mission – which has never been granted access to Venezuela – based its findings on nearly 250 confidential interviews, as well as analysis of legal documents.

It said it had documented 122 cases of victims who were subjected to torture, sexual violence and/or other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment” by agents with the Directorate General of Military Counterintelligence (DGCIM).

“Torture was carried out in its Boleita headquarters in Caracas and in a network of covert detention centres across the country, it said.

The mission said it had also investigated at least 51 cases of torture and ill-treatment of detainees by the Bolivarian National Intelligence Service (Sebin) since 2014.

These cases included “opposition politicians, journalists, protesters, and human rights defenders”, it said, adding that most of the abuse had taken place in the El Helicoide detention centre in Caracas.

Former Sebin employees had told the investigators that in some cases, “torture was ordered directly by President Maduro”, the report said, listing torture methods including electric shocks, asphyxiation and stress positions.

“Both Sebin and DGCIM made extensive use of sexual and gender-based violence to torture and humiliate its detainees,” the mission said.

The experts lamented that Venezuelan authorities had failed to hold perpetrators of abuses accountable.

“The human rights violations by state intelligence agencies, orchestrated at the highest political levels, have taken place in a climate of almost complete impunity,” mission member Francisco Cox said in the statement.

In a separate report on Tuesday, the mission also focused on rights abuses against local populations in gold-mining areas of Venezuela’s southern Bolívar state.

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