The United Nations Human Rights Council opened its 46th regular session on Monday. The first day of the session included an address from Venezuelan dictator Nicolas Maduro, commemorating his regime’s anniversary as a council member.
Maduro and his regime have a record of human rights violations that goes from incarcerating innocent citizens and political dissidents to torturing and killing them.
Venezuela was elected to the United Nations Human Rights Council on Oct. 17, 2019, in a secret ballot with a total of 105 votes by the 193 members of the U.N. General Assembly.
On June 21, 2019, in Venezuela, just a few months before this election, a Venezuelan retired Navy captain, Rafael Acosta Arevalo, was detained by the Venezuelan general directorate of military counterintelligence. His family was never notified of his fate or location.
Eight days after his disappearance, he was taken before a military court in Venezuela bearing clear signs of torture. He died in the very same room for lack of medical attention.
After many claims from his family, investigations were opened by different human rights organizations, and confirmed that he was terribly tortured. The United Nations high commissioner for human rights, Michelle Bachelet, stated in July 2020 the following about cases of torture in Venezuela:
Documented cases included severe beatings with boards, suffocation with plastic bags and chemicals, submerging the head of the victim underwater, electric shocks to the eyelids, and sexual violence in the form of electric shocks to genitalia. Detainees were also exposed to cold temperatures and constant electric light, handcuffed and blindfolded for long periods, and subjected to death threats against themselves and their relatives.
The tragedy of Acosta’s torture and death is only one example of human rights violations in the country. Amnesty International claims that hundreds of cases like this exist today in Venezuela.
That is why there should be an independent international mechanism that investigates cases like these and helps to provide justice and truth for the victims of the Maduro regime.
The Human Rights Council has received substantial criticism from allowing Maduro to speak at the first day of the session, and it is well deserved. Some organizations like U.N. Watch have started petitions that call on the U.N. General Assembly to remove Maduro’s regime from the council for its gross violations of human rights.
A dictatorship that arbitrarily detains citizens, tortures prisoners, make its enemies “disappear,” and drags civilians before its military courts is the No. 1 example of human rights abuses. Venezuela should have never obtained a seat on any organization that pretends to defend human rights.
Furthermore, the country has been in crisis since the very first day Maduro took office. It is well known that Venezuelans often go for many days without essential services like water and electricity—this has become the country’s norm.
The United Nations is taking a despicable stance that insults millions of Venezuelans, including myself. It is making fun of our fight against the dictatorship by giving Maduro a power position in a council that should serve to condemn his actions—not reward them.
Giving Maduro the chance to address the Human Rights Council confirms what many people suspect: that the U.N. does not represent a moral compass for our world.
Instead, it is a podium that the world’s criminals can speak at freely—human rights abusers like Cuba, China, Russia, Libya, Eritrea, Somalia, Pakistan, Cameroon, and Mauritania are also current members of the United Nations Human Rights Council.
Between 2016 and November 2019, more than 4.6 million people fled Venezuela due to the political turmoil, socioeconomic instability, and the ongoing humanitarian crisis.
Since many flee with no destination, thousands of Venezuelans cross various South American countries on foot. The conditions in which people leave the country are worse every day.
Many of them try to escape by the sea, and many of them lose their lives. This is what happened on Dec. 12, 2020, when a group of Venezuelans tried to reach Trinidad and Tobago by boat, but lost their lives in the attempt.
Maduro should be brought to justice for the atrocities he has committed. If the United Nations Human Rights Council did its job, this is what it would do.
Instead, it has decided to give him—a dictator, murderer, and terrorist supporter—a platform to speak on. What the U.N. did is irresponsible and should be condemned.
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