July 5 (UPI) -- A new United Nations investigative report said Friday the government of Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro has attacked and killed opponents and taken steps to limit the freedoms of its citizens.
U.N. High Commission for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet said after a visit to the South American nation its rule of law has "profoundly eroded" and some have faced "reprisals and repression" for exercising freedom of opinion and participation in public life.
Bachelet's conclusions, influenced by a visit to Venezuela last month, were detailed in a report issued Friday.
"Our report notes attacks against actual or perceived opponents and human rights defenders, ranging from threats and smear campaigns to arbitrary detention, torture and ill-treatment, sexual violence and killings and enforced disappearance," she said.
"Excessive and lethal force has repeatedly been used against protesters. My office has also documented excessive use of force in the context of security operations by the Special Action Forces, with multiple killings, mainly of young men. Many may constitute extrajudicial killings, and should be fully investigated, with the accountability of perpetrators, and guarantees of non-recurrence."
Bachelet noted the death of Venezuela Navy Capt. Rafael Acosta as an example. The Caracas government said he was arrested for plotting to assassinate Maduro. Reports said he died from extreme force and had been beaten and electrocuted. Two military officers were later charged in the case.
"There is a pattern of torture reports in Venezuela in the context of arbitrary detention," Bachelet said. "The authorities must ensure full investigation in accordance with international standards, as well as accountability and, where relevant, remedy for all cases of alleged torture."
Maduro's government issued an 11-page response after receiving an advance copy of the OHCHR report. It said the conclusions were filled with errors, and added that Maduro's regime is investigating human rights charges and making arrests.
The government also blamed Venezuela's ongoing humanitarian and political crisis on sanctions imposed by the United States, Canada and the European Union. A number of nations recognize opposition leader Juan Guaido as Venezuela's interim president, citing election irregularities in January's vote that gave Maduro another term. Guaido has taken numerous steps to try and remove Maduro from office.