Intervention by Ambassador Diego Arria of Venezuela
United Nations Human Rights Council
Side event of UN Watch & Iniciativa por Venezuela
September 11, 2017
Rush transcript of translation from Spanish
There is an old saying that Diplomats think twice, before saying… nothing. As I am not anymore a diplomat I will use this opportunity to say a couple of things, thanks to the invitation that I received from UN Watch and its leader Hillel Neuer. And today is a moment to reflect on the consequences that the terrorist attack of 9/11 had on all of us.
For reasons that I will mention in a minute, I believe it is opportune to recall Kofi Annan’s warning at the outset of the HRC:
“If we let the UN Human Rights Council fail, which will surely happen if democratic states weaken their commitment and engagement with it, we leave the field free to tyrants to call the shots. That would be a betrayal of those who are, or might one day be, the target of oppression and violence”
Those words resonate today in this building. In Prince Zeid al-Hussein report, the most damning one – second to none on other abominable regimes, followed by the UN Secretary General António Guterrez’s: “It is fundamental to have a democratic Venezuela, where human rights are respected”. Unequivocally the SG said that the Venezuelan regime is not democratic, and that it does not respect human rights.
Nicolas Maduro had announced that he would come to this meeting to confront the High Commissioner Report, but why did he fail to attend the opening of the Council session?
Firstly he was informed that several members of the Council would make statements endorsing the report; and secondly that the infamous record of his regime is almost as hard to defend, as are the judicial proceedings in a New York court against his adoptive son and nephew for the crime of narco trafficking, and who in the next few days are about to be condemned to life in prison.
To understand how a regimen could be so brutal as documented in the High Commissioner Report, it is fundamental to unmask its perverse, cruel, and criminal nature. Just a few facts will be enough:
Today more than 15 members of the armed forces are in the kingpin list or Clinton list of the US Treasury for the crimes of narco trafficking, arms smuggling and money laundering.
The US Treasury for grave violation of human rights recently sanctioned Maduro. The Vice President of Venezuela Tarek el Aisami, for narco trafficking and money laundering. The president of the Supreme Court of Justice has been indicted in two assassination cases, and sanctioned by the US Treasury. Diosdado Cabello the President of the regime’s party is accused of similar crimes as the presumed head of the Cartel de los Soles.
Pablo Escobar of the Medellin Cartel was never President or Vice President of Colombia. Nor President of the Supreme Court, nor Minister of Defense, nor Minister of Interior and Intelligence Services. Chapo Guzman the head of the Cartel of Sinaloa was not either President, or Vice President of Mexico or President of the Supreme Court of Justice. Nor Minister of Defense.
But their Venezuelan counterparts, Nicolás Maduro,Tarek El Aissami, Maikel Moreno, Diosdado Cabello, and generals Vladimir Padrino and Nestor Reverol occupy today those positions in my country. An unprecedented historical tragedy. Narcos and criminals in full control of a nation with the complicity of corrupted generals, sitting on top of the worlds most important oil reserves is a serious threat to the regional stability and peace. Never anywhere in the world organized crime had it so good.
The SG statement reaffirmed the international consensus on the Maduro regime triggered mainly by three reports by Luis Almagro, the Secretary General of the Organization of American States (OAS). His first report in May 2016 documented serious alterations to the constitutional order in Venezuela. His second report in March 2017 argued, in light of the on going deterioration of democratic institutions, that a breakdown of the constitutional order had occurred. No doubt Venezuela is, and has been for a long time, under a dictatorship.
A third Almagro report came out in July 2017. In light of the serious abuses and atrocities of the Maduro regime, he suggested the possibility that crimes against humanity may have been perpetrated by the security apparatus and the paramilitary. He has enrolled the cooperation of Luis Moreno-Ocampo, the former Prosecutor of the ICC to lead the investigation.
On his side, the High Commissioner Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein stated: “The generalized and systematic use of excessive force during demonstrations and the arbitrary detention of protestors and perceived political opponents indicate that these were not the illegal or rogue acts of isolated officials. The policies pursued by the authorities in their response to the protests have been at the cost of Venezuelans’ rights and freedoms.”
Detainees subjected to cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment and torture. Treatment included the use of electric shocks in genitals, severe beatings with sticks, metal bars, pliers, helmets, baseball bats and weapons, all over their bodies, including their genitals, stress positions, suffocation, and threats of sexual violence and death, intended to punish, humiliate and terrorize the detainees, as well as to extract confessions and information about alleged anti-government activities.
5,051 individuals, including 410 children, were arbitrarily detained between 1 April and 31 July, with more than 1,300 persons still in detention as of 31 July. Armed colectivos routinely broke into protests riding motorcycles and carrying firearms. They harassed, attacked and shot at demonstrators and media workers operating with the acquiescence of, and sometimes in coordination with, security forces and local authorities.
157 deaths averaging 27 years old. Fifteen were children and seven were women. The majority of victims were students. The Maduro gangs are killing our future.
I am convinced that the use of torture, sexual crimes, and methodic assassinations of unarmed civilians protesting on the streets amount to crimes against humanity as defined by the Statue of Rome, articles 7 and 28. In fact the UN High Commissioner’s report underlines “the generalized and systematic use of excessive force”
This definition is precisely stated in Article 7 of the Rome Statute: “Crime against humanity’ means any of the following acts when committed as part of a widespread or systematic attack directed against any civilian population, with knowledge of the attack: Torture: Murder; forcible transfer of population; Imprisonment or other severe deprivation of physical liberty in violation of fundamental rules of international law; sexual violence, Persecution against any identifiable group .The Maduro regime has followed a systematic state policy to commit all those crimes.
The case of the political prisoners who range from the Mayor of Caracas, Antonio Ledezma and mayors of other important cities like Daniel Ceballos in San Cristobal …Mayor Ramos of Barquisimeto and David Smolanksi. Leopoldo Lopez the most popular political figure and 600 hundred more like Yon Goicoechea, General Raul Baduel and his son, Professor Santiago Guevara, and a long list remain prisoners of the regime under tortured conditions.
I will do every hing in my power to make sure that the Maduro’s and Padrino of Venezuela find themselves in route to that placid and beautiful city of The Hague to meet the ICC, or to be captured under the Universal Jurisdiction, or by the UN Convention against Transnational Organized Crime (Palermo Convention). No place should be a safe haven for those who have committed crimes against humanity, extrajudicial executions, torture and forced disappearances.
I belong to the Venezuelan democratic era. I represented my country at the United Nations Security Council and later on as Adviser to UN SG Kofi Annan. As my country representative I participated in the creation of the International Criminal Tribunal for Former Yugoslavia, as well as in the promotion of the International Criminal Court (ICC). In fact I was the only member of the UNSC who was a witness for the defense of the Bosnian Muslim commander of Srebrenica, Nasser Oric, and for the prosecution against the criminals Radovan Karadzic and Slobodan Milosevic.
How could I imagine that one day I would find myself, here in the Palais des Nations unmasking the Maduro narco-tyranny, looking for international support to liberate my country and our people from criminals that have sequestered our freedom and our rights. The courageous High Commissioner Prince Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein, and his staff has done a major and more than significant contribution to reaffirm the values of the UN that are been trampled in my country. To them the gratitude of our people.
At the end of October, the OAS Secretary General will present his fourth report dealing with crimes against humanity in Venezuela. At that moment any single country could refer the case to the ICC to proceed to investigate it. I am sure than many would do so.
As I said once to Hugo Chavez whom I accused at the ICC for crimes against humanity “Chavez te espero en La Haya” but the almighty found him first than the court. I now say: “ Maduro, the OAS and the UN are waiting for you at The Hague.”
“We cannot leave the field free to tyrants to call the shots.”
United Nations, Palais des Nations
Geneva, September 11th, 2017