Venezuelan security forces and allied groups have committed systematic human rights violations, including killings and torture amounting to crimes against humanity, UN investigators said on Wednesday.
Reasonable grounds existed to believe that President Nicolas Maduro and his Interior and Defence Ministers ordered or contributed to the crimes documented in the report in order to silence opposition, they said.
Most unlawful executions by state agents have not been prosecuted in Venezuela, where the rule of law and democratic institutions have broken down, they added.
The UN fact-finding mission said other national jurisdictions and the International Criminal Court (ICC), which opened a preliminary examination into Venezuela in 2018, should consider prosecutions.
It would share its database containing the names of officers identified by victims.
“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 the violations – including arbitrary killings and the systematic use of torture – amount to crimes against humanity,’’ Panel Chair, Marta Valinas, said in a statement.
There was no immediate response by Maduro’s leftist government to the report, based on more than 270 interviews with victims, witnesses, former officials and lawyers as well as confidential documents.
“Far from being isolated acts, these crimes were coordinated and committed pursuant to State policies, with the knowledge or direct support of commanding officers and senior government officials,’’ Valinas said.
The panel found that officers in the military, police and intelligence had committed extrajudicial killings.
They included the former head of the National Intelligence Service, Gen. Christopher Figuera, it said.
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, whom 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.
The panel, set up by the Human Rights Council to investigate violations since 2014, was not granted access to Venezuela.
More than five million people – one sixth of the population – have fled the country’s political, economic and humanitarian crisis.
Jorge Valero, Venezuela’s ambassador to the UN in Geneva, told the forum on Tuesday the government was cooperating with the separate office of UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Michelle Bachelet, notably in facilitating prison visits.
Valero denounced the latest sanctions imposed by the Trump administration which were “causing suffering and death for the Venezuelan people’’.
The United States, along with dozens of other countries, recognises opposition politician, Juan Guaido, as Venezuela’s legitimate interim leader.
The report found that the Venezuelan state apparatus responded with repressive tactics to opposition protests that grew, especially after Maduro was re-elected in 2018 amid an outcry over the results.
“Security forces used lethal force against the victim when it was not strictly unavoidable to protect lives.
“Security forces also used less-lethal weapons in a lethal manner, which resulted in the death of the demonstrators,’’ it said.
Edited By: Abdulfatah Babatunde
Norwegian survey shows 77% displaced people have lost jobs, income due to COVID-19
A survey by the Norwegian Refugee Council (NRC) on Monday shows that 77 per cent of people displaced by conflicts have lost a job or revenue since the beginning of the coronavirus pandemic.
Jan Egeland, the Secretary-General of the NRC, said this in a statement.
A record 79.5 million people worldwide, or 1 per cent of humanity, were displaced at the end of 2019 after fleeing wars or persecution, according to the UN.
The NRC, a Non-Governmental Organisation (NGO), polled 1,431 refugees and internally displaced people across 14 countries including Afghanistan, Colombia, Iraq, Kenya Libya, Mali, Uganda and Venezuela.
Some 70 per cent of those surveyed said they had to cut the number of meals for their households and 73 per cent said they were less likely to send their children to school due to economic problems.
“The price of food has doubled. We have to collect scraps to feed our children,” said Shayista Gul, 60, who lives in a two-room makeshift home together with 15 others outside Kabul in Afghanistan.
“If the coronavirus does not kill us, hunger definitely will,” she is quoted as saying by the NRC in its report.
The pandemic has led to an economic downturn affecting the most vulnerable populations, including refugees and internally displaced people, pushing them into a “dangerous downward spiral”, the NRC said.
“Already forced from their homes by violence, often with limited rights to work or access to government services, the economic impact of the pandemic is pushing them to catastrophe,” Egeland said.
Edited By: Fatima Sule/Hadiza Mohammed-Aliyu
Pakistan resumes polio vaccination drive after hiatus due to pandemic
Tens of thousands of health workers across Pakistan started the first polio vaccination drive in several months, amid a continuing fall in coronavirus cases, officials said on Monday.
Around 40 million children are to be vaccinated for the crippling disease, which has been eradicated around the world aside from in Pakistan and Afghanistan, where it remains prevalent.
The drive, which is part of a UN-funded campaign, is due to run for a week and targets all children under the age of five, said Safdar Rana, the doctor who heads Pakistan’s anti-polio programme.
Healthcare workers administering the vaccine are to be guarded by thousands of police and troops in regions where they are routinely attacked by militants.
Pakistan launched a polio vaccine drive nationwide in February and had planned further campaigns during the year, after a warning by the World Health Organisation (WHO) of the risk of a new epidemic.
But the campaign was suspended for several months due to the novel coronavirus. The number of polio cases has risen steeply during that time.
“We will have to move swiftly to cover the backlog,” Rana said in a video statement.
So far this year, 73 children have been infected with polio in Pakistan, according to official statistics. There were 147 cases in 2019.
After peaking at 306 in 2014, polio cases had fallen to a single-digit figure in 2017, before rising again in recent years.
Edited By: Fatima Sule/Maharazu Ahmed
UN to mark 75th anniversary with largely online event
The UN is to mark the 75th anniversary of its founding amid the ruins of World War II with a largely online event on Monday, UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres, has said.
Guterres is expected to deliver in-person, remarks in the gilded General Assembly Hall, while world leaders, including United States President Donald Trump and German Chancellor Angela Merkel, will deliver pre-recorded video speeches.
“It’s very unfortunate but its going to be a pretty gloomy birthday celebration for the UN,” UN expert Richard Gowan from the think tank Crisis Group said.
Leaders are set to adopt a declaration agreed on in July, committing to a reinvigorated multilateralism.
Gowan described the declaration as a “perfectly fine but pretty anodyne statement of support for UN principles, weakened by the fact that the United States did not want strong language on climate change.”
The commemoration comes at a time when the world body faces questions over whether it is still fit for purpose in a more multipolar world, and whether it can muster consensus to deal with current conflicts and challenges, including the coronavirus pandemic.
“In this 75th anniversary year, we face our own 1945 moment. We must meet that moment; we must show unity like never before to overcome today’s emergency,” Guterres told a news conference last week.
A day after the event, the UN’s annual general debate kicks off, with leaders also sending in video speeches due to the pandemic.
Trump, who had expressed interest in being the only head of state to address the General Assembly live, is now said not to be heading to the UN’s New York headquarters.
Edited By: Fatima Sule/Ejike Obeta
Oil prices slip on potential return of Libyan output; Gulf storm supports
Oil prices fell on Monday on the potential return of output from Libya as rising coronavirus cases also added to worries about global demand, although a tropical storm heading for the United States Gulf of Mexico limited losses.
Brent crude was down 33 cents or 0.8 per cent at $42.82 a barrel by 0645 GMT, while United States crude was down 38 cents or 0.9 per cent to $40.73 a barrel.
Workers at Libya’s major Sharara field have restarted operations, two engineers working there said, after National Oil Corporation announced a partial lifting of force majeure.
But it was still unclear when production might restart.
“The market can ill afford more crude hitting the market,’’ ANZ analysts said in a note on Monday, at a time when coronavirus-related curbs have eroded demand.
More than 30.78 million people have been infected by the novel coronavirus and 954,843 have died globally, a Reuters tally shows, paralysing travel and business activity.
“It is hard to get excited about a pickup in crude demand as the virus is surging in France, Spain and the UK, along with concerns that the United States appears poised for at least one more cycle in the fall and winter,’’ said Edward Moya, senior market analyst at OANDA.
“Even if energy markets don’t see Libyan production return or if hurricane season eases, oil prices can’t shake off the dwindling demand outlook.’’
Meanwhile, Royal Dutch Shell Plc halted some oil production and began evacuating workers from a United States Gulf of Mexico platform, the company said on Saturday.
Tropical Storm Beta was predicted to bring one foot (30 centimetres) of rain to parts of coastal Texas and Louisiana as the 23rd named storm of this year’s Atlantic hurricane season moves ashore on Monday night, the National Hurricane Centre said.
Oil and gas producers had been restarting their offshore operations over the weekend after being disrupted by Hurricane Sally.
Some 17 per cent of United States Gulf of Mexico offshore oil production and nearly 13 per cent of natural gas output went offline on Saturday in the face of Sally’s waves and winds.
Edited By: Abdulfatah Babatunde