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Report Calls Venezuela's Justice System Tool of Government Repression

By Lisa Schlein September 25, 2021

A United Nations investigation has found the Venezuelan justice system complicit in propping up President Nicolas Maduro's repressive rule. The allegation comes in a report by the Independent International Fact-finding Mission on Venezuela that has been submitted to the U.N. Human Rights Council.

As in the past, the Venezuelan government refused all contact with the three U.N. investigators and would not allow them entry into the country to conduct their probe.

Consequently, the fact-finding mission remotely investigated the role played by Venezuela's justice system in the prosecution of the government's perceived opponents.

Chair of the mission Marta Valinas says the panel based its conclusions on an analysis of hundreds of interviews and case studies of people detained since 2014, as well as a review of thousands of pages of judicial files.

"Based on the investigation carried out, the mission has reasonable grounds to believe that the justice system in Venezuela has played a significant role in state repression of opponents to the government instead of providing them with protection when they were victims of human rights violations," Valinas said, speaking through an interpreter.

The mission says documentary evidence indicates judges have supported the arbitrary detention and arrests of political opponents and preventive detention orders have been routinely approved.

Valinas says an examination of 113 of the 183 cases of detention finds detainees were subjected to torture, sexual violence or other cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment. In 67 of these cases, she says detainees appeared in court with marks of mistreatment, noting the accused in many instances were ordered to remain in the same preventive detention facilities where they allegedly had been tortured.

"We are concerned at the fact that in some cases analyzed, the mission has reasonable grounds to believe that the prosecutor's office used information extracted under torture or coercion and that judicial authorities admitted this information as evidence without questioning its origin although the victims and their representatives' made allegations in this regard," Valinas said.

Venezuelan ambassador to the U.N. in Geneva Hector Constant Rosales rejected the report, saying it was politicized and full of false information and allegations that could not be taken seriously. He also questioned the legitimacy of the fact-finding mission and said the report undermined the credibility of the council.

Most states expressed their support for the mission and its mandate. They urged Venezuela to restore the independence of its judiciary. However, several countries, including Cuba, North Korea, Russia, China, and Eritrea opposed the debate, saying it was aimed at destabilizing Venezuela.

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