Venezuela suspends UN human rights office amid criticism of the detention of activist

Venezuelan Foreign Minister Yván Gil announced Thursday that the Venezuelan government has decided to suspend the activities of the Technical Assistance Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights in Venezuela, alleging a deviation from its mandate. Additionally, Gil stated that the personnel affiliated with this office must leave Venezuelan territory within 72 hours.

During a press conference, the Venezuelan Foreign Minister emphasized that, although the Venezuelan government had initiated cooperation with the High Commissioner’s Office on September 20, 2019, through the signing of a Memorandum of Understanding, the office allegedly exerted constant pressure on Venezuelan public authorities. Through a statement, the government specified that the suspension measure would remain in effect until the Technical Assistance Office rectifies its attitude, described in the statement as “colonialist, abusive, and in violation of the Charter of the United Nations.” The statement continued, saying:

Since the signing of the aforementioned Memorandum of Understanding, the High Commissioner’s Office has maintained a clearly biased and partisan stance, consistently seeking to generate impunity for individuals involved in various attempts at assassination, coup d’état, conspiracies, and other serious attacks against the sovereignty and constitution of the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela, despite the harm that such criminal practices can cause to peace and coexistence in society.

According to the Venezuelan government, the High Commissioner’s Office has proven to be “highly active in distorting facts and prequalifying situations regarding Venezuela, with the sole purpose of attacking the sovereignty and self-determination of the country through the use of lies, forgeries, misinformation, and manipulations.” In addition to the allegations of a presumed breach of the Charter of the United Nations, the government of President Nicolás Maduro maintains that the office has blatantly violated the obligations established in the Memorandum of Understanding. This resolution specifies that the High Commissioner has the responsibility to “respect the sovereignty, territorial integrity, and internal jurisdiction of States.”

The suspension of the High Commissioner’s Office comes after a statement issued by the Independent International Fact-Finding Mission on the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela, expressing “deep concern” about the detention of Venezuelan activist Rocío San Miguel. San Miguel if known for being critical of President Maduro and faces accusations of “terrorism.” Marta Valiñas, president of the Investigation Mission, alleged that these events are not isolated incidents but seem to be part of a coordinated plan to silence critics and those perceived as opponents.

In response to the decision to suspend the activities of the Technical Assistance Office, the spokesperson for the United Nations Human Rights Office Ravina Shamdasani expressed regret over the decision of the Maduro government and indicated that office’s guiding principles have been and will continue to be the promotion and protection of the human rights of Venezuelans. The Venezuelan opposition group Democratic Unity Platform also voiced its criticism of the government’s decision. In a message posted on X (formerly known as Twitter), the group stated that this measure “confirms the totalitarian nature of the regime,” which “does not want the active presence of the international community as witnesses to the ongoing human rights violations in our country.”