U.N. extends probe into possible crimes against humanity in Venezuela

GENEVA (Reuters) - The United Nations Human Rights Council on Tuesday extended by two years the mandate of investigators who have documented executions, disappearances and torture in Venezuela that they say may amount to crimes against humanity here.

FILE PHOTO: Venezuela's President Nicolas Maduro greets delegates after addressing the 73rd session of the United Nations General Assembly at U.N. headquarters in New York, U.S., September 26, 2018. REUTERS/Eduardo Munoz

It condemned “widespread targeted repression and persecution” by security forces and called on the government of President Nicolas Maduro to cooperate with a preliminary examination opened by the International Criminal Court (ICC).

“We continue to see new cases of arbitrary killings, torture and other serious violations of human rights in that country,” said Silvia Elena Alfaro Espinosa, Peru’s ambassador to the U.N. in Geneva, as she presented the resolution.

Venezuela’s ambassador Jorge Valero rejected the text, which was also backed by the European Union, as “a clear display of manipulation and politicisation of this Council”.

“President Maduro would like to ask the European Union are you going to continue with the battered, beaten, and failed script of Donald Trump against Venezuela?,” Valero asked.

The resolution was adopted with 22 countries in favour, three against (including Venezuela) and 22 abstentions (including Mexico).

U.N. investigators, in a report in September, said that the Maduro government had committed systematic human rights violations.

“The gravity of human rights violations, the erosion of rule of law and the dismantlement of democratic institutions in the country continue to merit the scrutiny of this Council,” Germany’s Ambassador Michael Freiherr von Ungern-Sternberg, speaking on behalf of the EU, told the Council.

Brazil’s Ambassador Maria Nazareth Farani Azevedo said that the U.N. findings had “renewed the hope for justice” among Venezuelans.

“Of particular alarm is that many of these violations were planned, made widespread and systematic under the command of individuals at the highest levels. The goal being to hang onto power at all cost,” she said.

Earlier, the forum adopted a separate resolution brought by Iran and Syria on continuing U.N. technical cooperation with Venezuela on human rights.

Reporting by Stephanie Nebehay; editing by Grant McCool