The Venezuelan president’s address today was a transparent attempt to use the UN Human Rights Council to shift attention away from his government’s own actions to restrict fundamental freedoms of peaceful assembly, association, and expression, particularly just before important national elections. This is an affront to a Council whose sole purpose is to protect and promote human rights and fundamental freedoms. We thus regret that a head of state would use this Council for blatant domestic political purposes as it risks damaging the credibility of this body.
The Venezuelan government has not fulfilled its obligations to protect civil and political rights and serious human rights violations continue to be committed. There are persistent reports of excessive use of force, torture and other ill-treatment and arbitrary detentions. The justice system is inefficient and continues to suffer from a lack of independence and impartiality. As a result, the vast majority of human rights violations remain unpunished. The United States is dedicated to the advancement of human rights in Venezuela, and one way in which we have tangibly sought to do this is through targeted sanctions against the worst human rights abusers.
The Venezuelan government suppresses and punishes government critics, including members of the political opposition, civil society, and independent media. On September 10 a judge convicted and sentenced opposition leader Leopoldo Lopez to nearly 14 years in prison after a sham trial that has been condemned by the international community. We repeat our calls for Mr. Lopez’s release and for the release of all Venezuelans who are imprisoned for political reasons. We urge the Government of Venezuela to guarantee fair and transparent public trials consistent with its international commitments and obligations.
All Venezuelans deserve to have full confidence in the important elections on December 6 and to participate without distinction or discrimination in free, fair and transparent elections guaranteeing the free expression of the will of all its citizens. The United States views with concern the August decisions by the Venezuelan National Electoral Council and Comptroller General banning certain members of the political opposition from running for or holding public office. These decisions clearly have the intention of complicating the ability of the opposition to run candidates for the legislative elections, and limiting the range of candidates that can be presented to the Venezuelan people. We hope the Venezuelan government will allow for independent, credible and effective electoral observation, which includes the ability of that observation mission to speak freely and publicly about the process and results.