The 'Worst Human Rights Crisis in it's History' - Venezuela
Updated: Oct 10, 2018
Venezuela is now recognised as being ‘among the most violent countries in the world’, according to a recent Amnesty International report; in 2017, the homicide rate was 89 per 100,000 people, higher than countries such as El Salvador and three times higher than Brazil. The majority of these killings were committed with firearms and were concentrated in urban areas with high levels of social exclusion, the report claims.
Amnesty International’s research has found that the actions of state agents suggest that they bear responsibility for the very high homicide rates in the country. Venezuela has not been able to reverse the extremely high levels of impunity for homicide, estimated at over 90%. On the contrary, it has systematically concealed official figures on the number of people who die annually as a result of armed violence, especially in cases where state security officers are involved where the state would bear direct responsibility for the deaths. This lack of transparency is the result not only of the absence of official information, but also of the persistent refusal to allow relatives access to case files on extrajudicial executions. The absence of mechanisms to ensure transparency, oversight investigation and punishment means that thousands of young men living in poverty are dying each year in a spiral of violence that the state has failed to stop.
In Amnesty’s report, they analysed the security policies drawn up between 2000 and 2017. It found that the plans that contained elements aimed at prevention, such as reforms of the policy or criminal justice system, were quickly abandoned or were not implemented at all. In contrast, those with elements focusing on repression, such as security operations by the army and other sections of the military, were consistently implemented.
International organisations have estimated in 2017 there were 5,900,000 small arms in Venezuela. Regarding the measured taken by Venezuela to address armed violence, in 2011 the Presidential omission for the Control of Weapons, Ammunition and Disarmament drafter the Law on Disarmament and the Control of Weapons and Ammunition. The law sought to regulate and monitor the carrying, possession, use, registration, manufacture and sale of weapons, ammunition and weapon parts and set out penalties for unlawful acts in order to end the illicit manufacture and trafficking of weapons. However, beyond this legislation, the response of the authorities to addressing access to and regulation of firearms has been weak and has failed to control access to guns or reduce armed violence. For example, there are no ballistics records for more than 90% of the weapons that are legally in circulation and there is no evidence that an ammunition marking system has been set up. It has also been documented that 80% of the weapons indicate that there are no effective controls to prevent them being diverted to illegal markets. In addition, the Disarmament Plan has not been effective and although announcements have been made that almost half a million weapons have been destroyed, local organisations who experts in the field are have questioned this claim and believe that this figure includes both ammunition and individual gun parts and that, therefore, the measure cannot be considered a success.
Amnesty International's research has also identified patterns in the way the right to justice is being denied to victims of human rights violations in Venezuela. These include flaws in the initial stages of investigation and harassment, threats and mistreatment of victims' relatives by the staff of the Attorney General's Office. These factors further entrench impunity and also deepen the social exclusion of victims' families, perpetuating cycles of revictimization for the thousands of families whose rights have been violated in the context of public security operations.
A lack of media coverage, developed by a lack of transparency within the country has meant that the situation in Venezuela seems hopeless, however, through increased awareness and action, we can make a difference! For more information and to get involved, visit www.amnesty.org/uk to take action!