GENEVA (Reuters) – The United Nations on Wednesday said Venezuela’s security forces had committed extensive and apparently deliberate human rights violations in crushing anti-government protests.
The actions indicated “a policy to repress political dissent and instil fear”, the U.N. human rights office said in a report that called for further investigation.
It called on the government of President Nicolas Maduro to release arbitrarily detained demonstrators and to halt the unlawful use of military courts to try civilians.
More than 1,000 people were believed to remain in custody as of July 31, among more than 5,000 detained in street protests since April, it said. Detainees are often subjected to ill-treatment, in some documented cases amounting to torture.
“Credible and consistent accounts of victims and witnesses indicate that security forces systematically used excessive force to deter demonstrations, crush dissent and instill fear,” it said in a report following initial findings issued on Aug 8.
Security forces have used tear gas canisters, motorcycles, water cannons and live ammunition to disperse the protesters, it said.
Venezuelan security forces and pro-government groups are believed to be responsible for the deaths of 73 people since April, while responsibility for the remaining 51 deaths has not been determined, the U.N. report said.
The overall toll of 124 includes nine members of the security forces that the government says were killed through July and four people allegedly killed by protesters, it said.
Some protesters have resorted to violent means, ranging from rocks to sling shots, Molotov cocktails and homemade mortars in protests against Maduro and shortages of food and other…