UN Panel Calls to Remove Maduro From UNHRC Ahead of Venezuela Debates

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UN Panel Calls to Remove Maduro From UNHRC Ahead of Venezuela Debates

NEW YORK, February 25, 2021 — In response to Venezuelan dictator Nicolas Maduro’s Monday address to the UN Human Rights Council—and ahead of a series of debates on Venezuela that begin tomorrow—a high-level panel at the United Nations of international experts and Venezuelan opposition figures called for the removal of the Maduro regime from the world’s top rights body, on account of its gross and systematic violations of human rights. (Click here for AP news report.)

Broadcast live on UN Web TV, the event was co-sponsored by a cross-regional coalition including the UN missions of Honduras, Estonia and Ukraine, together with the independent non-governmental human rights group UN Watch, based in Geneva. (Click here for video of the event.) 

UN Watch executive director Hillel Neuer, who moderated the UN panel, asked “Why hasn’t the UN General Assembly adopted a single resolution for human rights victims in Venezuela? Worse, why did they elect Venezuela to the Human Rights Council?”

Honduras Ambassador to the UN Lizzy Flores addressed the human rights crisis in Venezuela and appealed to the UN General Assembly, saying “it must act accordingly to remedy the situation” by removing Maduro.

Venezuelan opposition figure Maria Corina Machado described how all Venezuelans are “deprived of human rights, with no consequence whatsoever” and that removing Maduro from the council is a necessary step to “dismantling a criminal and mafia state.”

Luis Almagro, secretary general of the Organization of American States, called Venezuela’s membership on the UNHRC a “mockery” of the council’s founding principles, of Venezuelan victims including the families of those who have been executed by the Maduro regime.

“Why is Venezuela sitting on the Human Rights Council?” asked former Venezuela Ambassador to the UN and president of the Security Council Diego Arria, chair of the campaign to expel Maduro. “This is a criminal narco-tyranny, a militarized regime with links to terrorists. It is precisely the opposite of what Kofi Annan had in mind when he proposed the creation of a new Human Rights Council.”

“Venezuela’s ongoing crimes against humanity makes its presence on the Human Rights Council as shocking as it is contemptuous of a rules-based international legal order,” said international rights lawyer Irwin Cotler, who served as a member of the Organization of American States’ inquiry into abuses in Venezuela.

UNHRC to Begin Venezuela Debates

The UN side event took place just before the UNHRC’s main annual session begins an unprecedented series of three debates on the human rights record of Venezuela, which stirred controversy when it joined as a council member one year ago.

In a landmark September 2020 report, the UNHRC’s Fact-Finding Mission to Venezuela found the Maduro regime guilty of “crimes against humanity.”

As a result of conflicting resolutions by Venezuela’s allies and critics, debates on the country will be held at the UNHRC session on February 26, March 10 and 11, with briefings from UN rights chief Michelle Bachelet and the Fact-Finding Mission, as well as interventions from state delegations.

“It is morally unconscionable and logically absurd for the Maduro regime to remain a member of the UN’s highest human rights body after that body’s own investigators have presented detailed and horrifying evidence of systematic killing, torture, and sexual violence,” said Neuer.

The mandate of the Venezuela inquiry has been extended for an additional two years, until September 2022, pursuant to Resolution 45/20.

“Faced now with clear evidence that the orders to commit atrocities came from the very top — from Nicolás Maduro and his senior political and security officials — the United Nations must act by invoking the provision for removing council members that commit gross and systematic human rights abuses,” said Neuer.

Removing a member is contemplated in the council’s founding charter, Resolution 60/251, and has historical precedent with the General Assembly’s unanimous vote to expel Muammar Qaddafi’s Libya regime from the council in 2011.

Led by former UN Security Council President Diego Arria, and endorsed by leading Venezuela opposition figures Juan Guaido and Antonio Ledezma, UN Watch’s global campaign to expel Maduro from the council has already gathered more than 180,000 signatures.

“Regular citizens in Venezuela and around the globe are sending a message to the United Nations that it can no longer allow the Maduro regime to cast a shadow on the reputation of the world’s highest human rights body,” said Neuer.

CLICK HERE TO WATCH UN SIDE EVENT

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