(Vatican Radio) UN human rights experts have denounced widespread and systematic use of excessive force and arbitrary detentions against demonstrators in Venezuela. The team’s findings also uncovered other abuses, including violent house raids, torture and ill-treatment of those detained in connection with the protests.
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In the absence of a response from the Venezuelan authorities to requests for access, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein deployed a team of human rights officers to conduct remote monitoring of the human rights situation in the country from 6 June to 31 July.
The team conducted interviews with victims and their families, witnesses, civil society organisations, journalists, lawyers, doctors, first responders and the Attorney-General’s Office.
Witnesses spoke of security forces firing tear gas at close range and without warning at anti-Government protestors.
At least 125 people have died since a wave of anti-government protests began in April. According to the UN team, security forces are allegedly responsible for at least 46 of those deaths, while pro-Government armed groups, are reportedly responsible for over two dozen others.
Information collected by the team suggests that the armed groups known as “colectivos” routinely disrupt protests on motorcycles, wielding firearms and harassing or shooting at people.
While no official data is available on the number of arrests, estimates suggest that over 5,000 people have been arbitrarily detained, with up to a fifth of them remaining in detention. Some of them are reportedly subject to cruel or degrading treatment by security forces, including electric shocks, beatings, hanging by the wrists, suffocation with gas, and threats of rape or killing of detainees or their families.
High Commissioner Zeid said the responsibility for these human rights violations lies at the highest levels of Government. A full report on the team’s findings is scheduled to be released at the end of August.