Report: Venezuela used 500 front groups to subvert today's UN review of its rights record


For today’s UNHRC review, Venezuela displayed a photo exhibit showing its alleged commitment to human rights.
Above: Photo of President Nicolar Maduro with UN prize for combating hunger—though his people are in fact starving.

Press Release

Report: Venezuela used 500 front groups to
subvert today’s UN review of its rights record 

GENEVA, Nov. 1, 2016 – UN chief Ban Ki-moon and human rights high commissioner Zeid Hussein are being called upon to investigate how their officials allowed Venezuela to commit “fraud on a massive scale” to influence today’s UN review of the country’s human rights record by using hundreds of “front groups” to submit comments favorable to the regime, a watchdog group reported.
While “an astronomical amount of 519 supposedly non-governmental organizations” submitted comments for Venezuela’s review, only 54 commented on Uganda, 26 on Syria,  23 for South Sudan, and 20 on Zimbabwe, according to a new report published by UN Watch, a Geneva-based non-governmental human rights monitoring group.
Although “critiques by genuine NGOs do appear, they are overwhelmed by an unprecedented amount of submissions by fraudulent ‘NGOs’ that, if  they do exist, are either controlled by the government of Venezuela, or by its allies Cuba and Bolivia,” said Hillel Neuer, executive director of UN Watch and an international lawyer.
“This is fraud committed on a massive scale,” said Neuer, as Venezuela’s foreign minister appeared before the UN Human Rights Council this morning in Geneva, Switzerland, to present her government’s case. The UNHRC audits each nation every five years for its Universal Periodic Review (UPR).
“Venezuela used hundreds of front groups to hijack the United Nations database and compilation summary of NGO submissions, and turn it into a propaganda sheet for the regime of President Nicolas Maduro,” said Neuer.
The UPR is not binding on anyone “but does have an impact because it’s a megaphone, a podium, which does shape the way people think and it’s a source of legitimacy,” said Neuer.
“Among the 500 groups absurdly praising Venezuela’s alleged human rights accomplishments include the Bolivian Baseball Association, the Cuban Federation of Canine Sports, and the ‘Association for Obvious Things,’ a group in Slovenia that hailed Venezuela’s record on combating hunger,” said the UN Watch report.
“The result is that the review today of Venezuela’s human rights record is being conducted based on a massive amount of manifestly false information,” concludes the report.
Under UN rules, the world body is only supposed to gather submissions that provide “credible and reliable information.” The report calls on UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon and High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Hussein to investigate “how and why their officials failed to screen out submissions that clearly do not meet this standard.”
“Ban Ki-moon and High Commissioner Zeid should declared Venezuela guity of conempt for the Human Rights Council on which it sits,” said Neuer.
UN Watch has often criticized the Council itself for electing non-democracies, including Venezuela itself last year, as members.
On Friday UN Watch slammed the re-election of Saudi Arabia, China and Cuba to the Council. “Electing the Saudis to the UN’s highest human rights body like making a pyromaniac into the fire chief,” said Neuer.
During the UNHRC meeting today on Venezuela, the Syria, North Korea, and Iran praised Venezuela while Western nations criticized its abuses and lack of democracy. All the comments and Venezuela’s responses are eventually added to the UPR.
The UN Watch report, titled “Fraud on the UN: Venezuela’s Corruption of its 2016 UPR Human Rights Review,” gives 20 examples of praise heaped by the NGOs on the socialist-run regime.
Among the “NGOs” were several organizations controlled by the Cuban Communist Party—and having no obvious expertise on the human rights claims in their submissions—such as the Cuban Association of Animal Production, the Cuban Federation of Underwater Activities, the Cuban Society for Philosophical Investigations, and the Cuban Society for Urology.
Also commenting were numerous Bolivian groups including the Bolivian Association of Plastic Arts.
According to the UN compilation document, despite Venezuela’s mass hunger, a Slovenian-based group called the “Association for Obvious Things” hailed Venezuela for being “recognized by the UN Food and Agriculture Organization for surpassing the first Millennium Development Goal of halving hunger.” (See full submission here.)
The UN document also reported that “a total of 238 organizations” welcomed “the reinforcement of people’s power and popular governance” in Venezuela. “Yet the truth is that the democratic opposition leaders like Antonio Ledezma and Leopoldo Lopez have had their freedom taken away,” said Neuer.
“A total of 40 organizations” reported Venezuela’s alleged “advances in the provision of free education at all levels.” A group called Desarrolo Humano Integral stated that in Venezuela “there is freedom of religion, belief, expression of ideas and thought, association, assembly and peaceful demonstration.” Neuer said this too was false: “The regime routinely arrests dissidents for the crimes of peaceful demonstrations.”
The UN reported that 24 organizations praised Venezuela for “positive outcomes” including a “reduction in school dropout rates and the introduction of a school meals program.” A total of 21 organizations reported that “progress had been made in adopting health legislation to ensure compliance with constitutional provisions prescribing free, high-quality health services for all.” In reality, said Neuer, the state of health in Venezuela is “a catastrophe—people are desperate for basic medicines.”
For full report, click here

UN Watch