According to recent reports from nongovernmental organizations (NGOs), human rights violations in Venezuela continued throughout 2021, resulting in a high number of victims, despite international scrutiny.
“Police and service members caused the death, throughout the national territory, of 1,414 people between January and December 2021,” said Venezuelan human rights NGO PROVEA, in the 33rd edition of its Annual Report on the Human Rights Situation in Venezuela. “The high number of people killed by security forces is a consequence of structural impunity, which encourages further occurrences,” the NGO said.
“The report on human rights violation in Venezuela indicates that there is growing systematic repression […] as it [the regime] loses legitimacy,” Luis Fleischman, professor of Sociology at Palm Beach State University and international relations expert, told Diálogo.
Centro Gumilla, a Jesuit research and social action center in Venezuela, also denounced, together with PROVEA, the thousands of murders that occurred in 2021 at the hands of the Venezuelan regime. “We call for the investigation of alleged extrajudicial executions,” said Father Alfredo Infante, director of the Centro Gumilla, at a May 19 press conference. “We have insisted that an investigation must be carried out so that the families of the victims know the truth, there is justice and reparation, and the cycle of impunity is stopped,” he added.
According to Father Infante, following the publication of their reports, the Venezuelan state of Carabobo accused the Centro Gumilla and PROVEA of defamation. “We are on the side of the victims and their families,” Father Infante told the online platform Aleteia. “We do not intend anything other than to defend the right to life and to reestablish the rule of law in our country, so that there may be truth, justice, reparation, for non-recurrence,” he said.
In 2021, there were also 241 torture victims, PROVEA indicated — an increase of 148.4 percent over the number of victims reported in 2020 — and the second highest record in the last 33 years. “In 60.9 percent of the torture complaints collected in this report, the victims said they had suffered some form of sexual abuse, which in several cases included rape,” PROVEA said. According to the document, there was an increase in humiliation and physical and psychological abuse of the victims, through sexual assaults.
According to Fleischman, the high number of dead and torture victims by the Venezuelan regime “indicates that Venezuela is unfailingly becoming a second Cuba,” where the regime takes refuge in violence. “This is how the Castro regime has ruled for more than 60 years and to this day it remains so,” he added.
In a landmark decision, International Criminal Court Prosecutor Karim Khan announced on November 4, 2021 his decision to investigate whether crimes against humanity were committed in Venezuela. “This is the first decision of this nature to be handed down in the continent and it constituted a giant step in victims’ road to justice,” PROVEA said. According to the NGO, the “massive and systematic violations of the right to life” evidence that the actions of agents of the regime continue to contravene national and international norms on the differentiated and progressive use of force.
Right to justice
Venezuela ranked last among 139 countries under the Rule of Law Index 2021 of the World Justice Project, an international non-profit organization working to advance the rule of law worldwide. The index’s latest edition relied on surveys of more than 138,000 households and 4,200 experts to measure how the general public experiences and perceives the rule of law.
Performance is evaluated using 44 indicators in eight categories, including Fundamental Rights, Order and Security, Regulatory Compliance, Civil Justice, and Criminal Justice. In the index, Venezuela lagged behind countries such as Afghanistan (which ranked 134th) and Cambodia (138th).