UN human rights chief urges free and open space for debate in Venezuela — Global Issues


UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Volker Türk reported increasing restrictions on public space and urging stakeholders to change course.

“My office (OHCHR) continues to receive reports of arrests as election day approaches, including of supporters and members of the opposition,” he said in a speech to the Geneva-based Human Rights Council.

“This does not bode well, and I urge a change in such practices.”

Major opportunities

Venezuela’s presidential elections are scheduled for July 28, while local, regional and parliamentary elections will take place in 2025.

These are “important opportunities to respect the will of the people,” Mr Türk stressed.

“Now, more than ever, constructive and open dialogue among the people and with the institutions of the state is crucial to overcome deep divisions and restore the social contract among Venezuelans,” he said.

Economic concerns

During his briefing, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights also expressed concerns about the economic conditions.

He said that despite official figures indicating a 5 percent growth in gross domestic product (GDP) last year, Venezuelans “still face serious obstacles” in accessing food, health care and education.

Women, rural people and indigenous peoples are disproportionately affected.

He also cited reports showing that nearly three-quarters of health facilities in the country lacked medical or nursing staff between July and August last year, while abortion remains criminalised, leading to unsafe procedures and maternal death and morbidity.

“I urge the authorities to take steps to address all these concerns – in the areas of health, education, food and decent remuneration – in line with the state’s international obligations,” he said, also calling for the lifting of sectoral sanctions that have exacerbated pre-existing human rights challenges.

Alarming figures on femicide

High Commissioner Türk expressed concern about the cases of femicide, noting that 186 such cases were reported between January and November last year.

“Investigations into these killings are essential, as are much stronger prevention and response efforts. A protocol developed by the attorney general’s office is a first step, but much more is needed,” he said.

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