UN renews human rights mission in Venezuela

Venezuela's President Nicolas Maduro speaks virtually during the 75th annual U.N. General Assembly, which is being held mostly virtually due to the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic, from Miraflores Palace in Caracas, Venezuela September 23, 2020. Miraflores Palace/Handout via REUTERS/File Photo

GENEVA/CARACAS, Oct 7 (Reuters) - The United Nations Human Rights Council on Friday renewed the mandate of its fact-finding human rights mission in Venezuela, an initiative that Caracas considers an aggressive tool for interfering in domestic matters.

The mandate to extend the International Independent Fact-Finding Mission for Venezuela (FFM) for two more years was approved by 19 votes to five against and 23 abstentions during a Council session in Geneva, having been first created in 2019 to look into alleged human rights violations.

Those opposed were Cuba, Bolivia, China, Eritrea and Venezuela itself, whose representative to the Council, Ambassador Hector Constant Rosales, dubbed the resolution "hostile."

President Nicolas Maduro's Foreign Minister Carlos Faria called the FFM's extension "a new attack against Venezuela" on Twitter.

The mission "is designed for interventionism and for the falsification of reality. This commission is a political instrument for the most brazen defamation on issues of human rights," he added.

In September, the mission's third report found that state intelligence agencies under Maduro's helm had suppressed the opposition through arbitrary detentions and torture that amounted to crimes against humanity.

The intelligence agencies "made use of sexual and gender-based violence to torture and humiliate their detainees" since at least 2014 and "the violations and crimes... continue to this day," the report said.

The Venezuelan government responded that the report's accusations were "false and unfounded."

Venezuela is a "democratic and social state, based on the rule of law and justice, which is committed to the promotion, respect and protection of human rights," the government said.

Human rights groups welcomed the FFM's extension.

The renewal was a "sign of support for the countless victims of grave human rights violations that have been, and continue to be, committed in the country," Amnesty's Americas Director Erika Guevara Rosas said on Twitter.

Human Rights Watch called the FFM's extension "extremely important" and said it plays "an early warning role in the lead up to the 2024 presidential elections."

Reporting by Emma Farge in Geneva and Vivian Sequera in Caracas; Editing by Rosalba O'Brien and Diane Craft

Our Standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.