UN rights council to mull sending investigators to Venezuela

A supporter of Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro displays a picture of late President Hugo Chavez and his daughters as a lorry carrying boxes with signatures gathered by the government among Venezuelans as part of its "No More Trump" campaign, heads to Miraflores Presidential Palace in Caracas on Saturday. Maduro has collected signatures for a petition against US President Donald Trump he may push at the United Nations General Assembly next week. The petition comes as Trump imposed sweeping sanctions on the economically devastated country aimed at removing the leftist Maduro and installing Juan Guaido, the National Assembly leader considered interim president by more than 50 countries. — AFP

GENEVA — A group of Latin American and other countries on Friday brought a resolution before the UN Human Rights Council urging the body to send a team of investigators to probe rights violations in Venezuela.

The 17 petitioning nations presented a draft resolution voicing "grave concern at the alarming situation of human rights" in Venezuela.

The text called for the UN's top rights body to "dispatch urgently an independent international fact-finding mission" to Venezuela "to investigate extrajudicial executions, enforced disappearances, arbitrary detentions and torture and other cruel, inhumane or degrading treatment".

The one-year mission should carry out its investigation "with a view to ensuring full accountability for perpetrators and justice for victims,"said the concerned nations which include Argentina, Australia, Brazil, Canada and Israel,

The text, which will be voted on before the end of the ongoing 42nd session of the council next Friday, deplored "the systematic abuse of State institutions in the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela, accelerating the erosion of the rule of law and of democratic institutions".

It also urged Caracas to release all "political prisoners" and voiced "grave concern" over UN rights office findings in July suggesting that many of the more than 6,000 killings in alleged confrontations with state forces since early 2018 may in fact have been "executions".

Earlier this month, UN rights chief Michelle Bachelet lamented to the council that Venezuela's police special forces (FAES) were suspected of continuing to carry out extrajudicial killings in the country.

She also cited a range of other grave rights violations in Venezuela, which is caught in an economic crisis and a political standoff between President Nicolas Maduro's government and National Assembly leader Juan Guaido.

But Bachelet, who recently visited Venezuela and is working to set up an office there, appeared reluctant when speaking to journalists earlier this month to back the establishment of an investigative body, saying her main priority was to establish a monitoring and reporting presence in the country.

Venezuela has itself, along with Iran, presented its own draft resolution to the council hailing its cooperation with Bachelet and "recogniizing" the country's "political disposition" to continue that cooperation.

The oil-rich country suffers from hyperinflation and shortages of basic goods from food to medicine, a crisis that has forced some 3.6 million people to flee the country since 2016.

The 17 countries which brought the resolution are; Albania, Argentina, Australia, Brazil, Canada, Chile, Colombia, Georgia, Guatemala, Guyana, Honduras, Iceland, Israel, Liechtenstein, Monaco, Paraguay and Peru. — AFP