More than 2,000 people have been killed this year in security operations in Venezuela’s poorer neighbourhoods, UN rights chief Michelle Bachelet said on Friday.
The United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights said her office had documented the repression of peaceful protests in the country over the past few months.
“I am concerned about the high number of deaths of young people in disadvantaged neighbourhoods as a result of security operations,” Bachelet told the 45th session of the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva.
“Based on an open-source analysis, my office recorded 711 deaths from June to August, reaching over 2,000 deaths since January 2020.”
Of the 2,039 total figure, 11 were women and the average age of those killed was 26.
In an update covering the period from July 2, Bachelet said her office had continued to document cases of repression of peaceful protests under the context of the state of emergency in place since March.
These included the arrest of demonstrators protesting against low wages and pensions, poor public services and fuel shortages, the former Chilean president said.
“In addition, we observed restrictions on freedom of expression, including the application of anti-hate legislation, attacks against human rights defenders and assaults on and arrests of journalists,” Bachelet said.
Bachelet called for the release of all those still “arbitrarily deprived of their liberty for exercising their rights”.
– ‘Manipulated evidence’ –
She welcomed the arrests of five members of the FAES special forces allegedly responsible for the deaths of two people in Zulia in northwest Venezuela on August 21.
“The public statements of the attorney general on this case show a pattern similar to that documented by my office, in which, after executing the already neutralised victims, the security forces rob them and manipulate the evidence to present the facts as a confrontation,” she said.
In a report to the council earlier this month, UN investigators said Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro and top ministers were responsible for probable crimes against humanity.
A team tasked with probing a slew of alleged violations said they had found evidence that state actors, including Maduro, were behind serious crimes such as extrajudicial killings and the systematic use of torture.
Caracas quickly branded the report as being “riddled with falsehoods”.
In her statement Friday, Bachelet also touched on the effect of the coronavirus pandemic in hard-hit Venezuela.
She lamented that a third of all Covid-19 deaths in the country had been among health workers, mainly due to the lack of biosafety equipment and water in hospitals.
Bachelet meanwhile reiterated her call for economic sanctions to be lifted in order to facilitate the allocation of resources during the pandemic.