Venezuelan security forces have carried out hundreds of killings as part of "crime fighting" operations, the United Nations' human rights office said in a report Friday. File photo by Miguel Gutierrez/EPA-EFE
June 22 (UPI) -- Venezuelan security forces are responsible for the deaths of hundreds of citizens over a two-year period, but aren't being held accountable for them, the United Nations' human rights office said Friday.
The U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) said in a report more than 500 people were killed by Venezuelan security forces between July 2015 and March 2017.
The killings often showed a pattern, the report concluded, which included security forces raiding poor neighborhoods to arrest "criminals" without a judicial warrant -- and later killing men in their homes and tampering with the scene to make it look like there was an exchange of fire.
Security forces have largely gotten away with the crimes, the investigation said, citing disappearing evidence from case files and a lack of formal trials against the officers.
"The failure to hold security forces accountable for such serious human rights violations suggests that the rule of law is virtually absent in Venezuela," U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra'ad Al Hussein said.
"For years now, institutional checks and balances and the democratic space in Venezuela have been chiseled away, leaving little room to hold the state to account. The impunity must end."
The OHCHR said the Venezuelan government has not given it access to the country despite repeated requests. Hussein said a Commission of Inquiry should be established to investigate.
"Given that the state appears neither able nor willing to prosecute serious human rights violations, there is also a strong case to be made for deeper involvement by the International Criminal Court," Hussein said.
According to the report, 87 percent of Venezuelans are affected by poverty, with extreme poverty at 61 percent. At least 1.5 million people have fled the country since 2014 amid political and economic troubles.
The OHCHR report was compiled using a "wide range of sources," including some 150 interviews with Venezuelans and dozens of witnesses or victims.