Today, the ICJ joined 10 other international and Venezuelan human rights organizations to call the United Nations Human Rights Council to establish a Commission of Inquiry (COI) on human rights in Venezuela in its upcoming session in September.
The ICJ considers that an independent COI is necessary given the Venezuelan authorities have been unable or unwilling to pursue effective domestic accountability and the judicial and prosecutorial mechanisms lack independence and impartiality.
In recent years, the ICJ has documented in several reports the lack of judicial independence, the lack of accountability for those allegedly responsible for gross human rights violations, the abuse and misuse of the military jurisdiction, and wide ranging breakdown in the functioning of the rule of law.
The United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights in her 2019 report has similarly stressed that wide ranging human rights violations had occurred in Venezuela evidenced by the excessive use of force by security forces, attacks on freedom of expression, arbitrary detention and extrajudicial killings, dismantling of checks and balances, and deprivations constituting violations of the right to food and health. In addition, a panel of independent international experts mandated by the Secretary General of the Organization of American States (OAS), mentioned in 2018 “that reasonable grounds exist to believe that crimes against humanity have been committed in Venezuela”.
Commissions of Inquiry have been effectively established by the UN Human Rights Council to assess serious situations of human rights in several countries where there is a need to ensure proper human rights fact finding and ultimately accountability for widespread or systematic human rights violations. These include COIs for Syria, North Korea, Burundi, Yemen, Libya and Eritrea.
The ICJ and the other organizations have emphasized that the Commission of Inquiry that could be established for Venezuela “should be mandated to investigate reports of violations of international human rights law in Venezuela, including but not limited to violations associated with torture and inhuman treatment, arbitrary detention, discrimination, violations of freedom of expression, violations of the right to life and enforced disappearances, as well as violations of the rights to health and food. It should be tasked with establishing the facts and circumstances of violations committed since at least 2014, mapping out patterns of violations and identifying those responsible and, where possible, the chain of command, with a view to contributing to full accountability for all violations including those that constitute crimes under international law (…)”.
Venezuela-COI final-Advocacy-2019-ENG (full Q&A document prepared by all 11 organizations in PDF)