Are Venezuela's elections in danger? 1:10
(CNN Spanish) -- At least 58 people were arbitrarily detained in Venezuela between January 2020 and August 2023, the United Nations Human Rights Council's Fact-Finding Mission on Venezuela concluded.
According to the fourth report that the Mission presented this Wednesday in Geneva, these cases include the arbitrary detention of union leaders, human rights defenders, members of non-governmental organizations, journalists, members of opposition parties and others who expressed criticism against the Government.
While the report notes that overall there was a decrease in accusations compared to previous reports, the mission emphasizes that the trend in human rights violations and other crimes must be understood in relation to the consequences of the COVID-19 pandemic.
"2020, with the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, marked the end of mass protests called by opposition parties, as well as the curtailment of the practice of mass arrests of protesters followed by torture and detention, and also the end of large-scale counterinsurgency operations deployed by state forces in response to initiatives to destabilize the government," explained Marta Valiñas, president of the Mission.
- The Government of Venezuela assures that it evicted the Tocorón prison, where the gang El tren de Aragua was based
In order to update the report, 43 new cases involving the human rights violations and crimes listed in the original mandate were investigated, the cases involving 72 individual victims, of which 47 were men and 25 women, including one transgender woman.
With 28 identified cases of torture against individuals who oppose the government, or who have been perceived as opponents of the government, detentions were documented, both in official and clandestine locations.
"Sexual and gender-based violence continues to be used as a form of torture and humiliation through rape, the threat of rape, as well as invasive searches and forced nudity against detainees and even their families and lawyers who visited them in prison."
With the election year approaching, the mission identified more frequently in the practice of prohibiting government officials from running for public office and noted that three of the candidates for the primary elections of the opposition United Platform, Henrique Capriles, María Corina Machado and Freddy Superlano, are prohibited from participating in the presidential elections scheduled for 2024.
CNN has requested comments on this report from the Ministry of Communication and Information and the Attorney General's Office.
In the past, Attorney General Tarek William Saab said that in Venezuela "justice is done in matters of human rights violations" and that "it was not necessary, I return and I repeat, that a transnational instance, called the International Criminal Court, or whatever, do what we are already doing in Venezuela."
According to Tarek, in 2022, 533 officials and 20 private collaborators were charged with human rights violations, which stood out as the highest figure in the last five years.
The mission stated that it had reasonable grounds to believe that, of the at least 58 people arbitrarily detained, most of the detentions were attributable to the General Directorate of Military Police, Counterintelligence or the Bolivarian National Intelligence Service (Sebin).
"Our investigations have led us to conclude that security agencies involved in serious human rights violations and crimes against humanity continue to exist in Venezuela only under another agency name, while the government decorates, promotes and grants new command responsibilities to those who should be prosecuted and punished," concluded Francisco Cox, a member of the Mission.
The Independent International Fact-Finding Mission on the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela was established on 27 September 2019 by the United Nations Human Rights Council for a period of one year, to assess alleged human rights violations committed since 2014.
Osmary Hernández contributed to this information.