Wednesday 23 October 2019

Venezuela blasts 'biased vision' in UN rights report

Stands by report: UN’s human rights commissioner Michelle Bachelet. Photo: Getty Images
Stands by report: UN’s human rights commissioner Michelle Bachelet. Photo: Getty Images

Jamey Keaten

A top Venezuelan diplomat yesterday blasted what he called the "biased vision" of a report by the UN human rights chief chronicling torture, sexual abuse and extrajudicial killings in the country, and demanded it be "corrected".

Deputy Foreign Minister William Castillo insisted the report from high commissioner for human rights Michelle Bachelet "does not reflect the reality in our country". He said Venezuela would heed "constructive" recommendations.

"We demand that its contents be corrected, and we urge you to act in a balanced and respectful way," Mr Castillo told the UN-backed Human Rights Council through a translator.

"The content of this report is incomprehensible, dominated by a selective and biased vision," he said. "It's a text lacking in scientific rigour, with serious errors in methodology and which seems like a carbon copy of previous reports."

Ms Bachelet, after presenting the report published on Thursday to the council, insisted that she heard from victims on both government and opposition sides, and defended the methodology.

Since taking office last year, Ms Bachelet said, she has emphasised that staffers need to get the facts right to show balance.

Also yesterday, Ms Bachelet announced that Venezuela has freed 22 people the opposition considers political prisoners under international pressure.

That brings the release of political prisoners in recent weeks to 84.

Ms Bachelet's announcement came as embattled President Nicolás Maduro appeared in a military celebration on Venezuela's Independence Day, while opposition leader Juan Guaidó was expected to lead a march against the socialist leader.

The rights chief said her teams had been working on the report, which covers a period from January 2018 nearly to the present, for a long time. She insisted upon the validity of the reporting, based on hundreds of interviews and meetings with government officials, Mr Maduro's opponents, as well as victims, their relatives, rights defenders and many others.

She also expressed hope that the report could help pave the way toward improvements in the rights situation in Venezuela, and noted that her office now has an office in Venezuela - access not granted for many years.

She summarised her team's findings about a "pattern of torture" under Mr Maduro's government, citing violations like arbitrary detention, extrajudicial killings, sexual violence and enforced disappearances.

Witnesses recounted "in every case" how special forces known as FAES "manipulated the crime scene and evidence", the report said.

Irish Independent

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