The government of Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro has committed systematic human rights violations including killings and torture amounting to crimes against humanity, United Nations investigators said.
Reasonable grounds existed to believe that Maduro and his interior and defence ministers ordered or contributed to the crimes documented in the report to silence opposition, the investigators said. They had information indicating Maduro ordered the director of the national intelligence service SEBIN to detain opponents "without judicial order", Francisco Cox of the UN fact-finding mission told a news briefing.
The report was based on more than 270 interviews with victims, witnesses, former officials and lawyers, and confidential documents. They included the former head of the National Intelligence Service, General Christopher Figuera, whose testimony was corroborated, the report said.
Most unlawful executions by security forces and state agents have not been prosecuted in Venezuela, where the rule of law and democratic institutions have broken down, the investigators said. They said other national jurisdictions and the International Criminal Court, which opened a preliminary examination into Venezuela in 2018, should consider prosecutions.
"The mission found reasonable grounds to believe that Venezuelan authorities and security forces have since 2014 planned and executed serious human rights violations, some of which - including arbitrary killings and the systematic use of torture - amount to crimes against humanity," panel chair Marta Valinas said. The panel found that officers in the military, police and intelligence had committed extrajudicial killings and called on the government to disband the special actions forces of the police known as FAES.
The panel said it had reasonable grounds to believe the intelligence service falsified or planted evidence on victims, and that its agents tortured detainees. They included opposition lawmaker Fernando Alban, who the government said committed suicide in 2018 but whose party said was murdered. Navy Captain Rafael Acosta was believed to have died of torture in the custody of the military intelligence agency DGCIM last year, the UN experts said.