Maria-Alejandra Aristeguieta-Alvarez, Ambassador-designate in Switzerland of Venezuela interim President Juan Guaido, addressed the 12th Annual Geneva Summit for Human Rights and Democracy

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12th Annual Geneva Summit for Human Rights and Democracy, Main Event, Tuesday, February 18, 2020

Full prepared remarks below:

Thank you UN Watch for allowing to speak about Venezuela in this Summit. As partner organizations and as an Ambassador, I can say we have come a long way, but much more needs to be done.

Nine years ago, in 2011 I took my first steps in this painful path. For years we had tried in vain to increase visibility of the growing human rights violations in Venezuela. For the first Universal Periodic Review on Venezuela few civil society representatives came to Geneva. 

Among the main concerns at the time we counted the closing down of the media, the confiscation of companies and some very emblematic cases of arbitrary detention, lack of due process and independence of the judiciary.

In 2013, although I found no record in the OHCHR webpage, I do remember some pronouncement from the High Commissioner´s office with regards to demonstrations after a rigged electoral process.The case in point was the abuse of the use of force by those meant to protect the citizens. 

In 2014 we lost yet another layer of our innocence in the face of pain as we witnessed death, injuries and arbitrary detention of dozens of students during a new wave protests. Geraldine Moreno, Rosa´s daughter was killed in that occasion. It will be 6 years of her death within a few days.

At that time, the then Human Rights Commissioner Navy Pillay, demanded that concrete action by the authorities took place, including a full and independent investigation, the release of peaceful protestors who had been detained, as well as disarming armed groups.

Pillay also stressed out that the government must ensure that law enforcement officials act in line with international standards at all times and under any circumstances.

From that first statement, SIX years ago until today, we have had recurring pronouncements from at least 24 Special Rapporteurs, many of them asking to be allowed into the country. The committees on Human Rights, the Committee on Torture, on Childrens’ Rights, on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, the HR Council, both subsequent High Commissioners –through their reports to the Council 3 times a year- have all expressed the need for Venezuela to fulfil its HR obligations and international HR Treaties.

In 2017, after a new round of protests where more than 50 people were killed by law-enforcement officials, the Working Group on Arbitrary Detentions reported on cases that have discussed in this very room. Three Reports (2017, 2018, 2019) have been written on the situation in Venezuela under the High Commissioner´s responsibility. Three oral updates, three resolutions, the approval of a Fact-finding mission, and the establishment of a country office were approved. I am talking about SIXTY actions calling the attention of the Venezuelan regime.

At the time, in 2011, the concerns were about violations of freedom of expression and freedom of assembly. Then we went down to arbitrary detention, torture and the independence of judges. Then down again to a new level of horror: extrajudicial executions, and later on the mandate focused on the loss of the most basic rights: to health, to food, to water, seeking to protect those who suffer the most in a humanitarian crisis, namely the elderly, the children, pregnant women and the poorest people.

The Universal HR system has been documenting and underlining the increasing deterioration of the situation in Venezuela. However, it all fell in deaf ears. The system turned on the alarms, only to die off later in the hands of multilateral diplomacy.

So, speaking about multilateral diplomacy, what does the HRC Agenda includes about Venezuela for Member States this year?

For starters, HRC 43 will receive new Council Members, Venezuela will be one of the 47 Member States. Indeed, the Maduro regime was elected over Costa Rica during the past UNGA. Let me recall that one of the conditions to be elected is to have a record of promoting and protecting Human Rights. The Maduro regime will be sitting at the Council as one of the 47 after MORE THAN 60 calls of attention from the very same House. This cannot be business as usual, and Amb. Arria will speak further about this.

Additionally, at the Council´s March session we will have two oral updates on Venezuela.

In July, at HRC 44, we expect to receive two written reports that will address among others the violations of Human Rights in the Arco Minero del Orinoco. A region where illegal extraction of gold and other minerals is financing national and foreign armed groups, terrorists and rogue States. 

In September HRC45, there will be two oral updates and the report of fact finding mission on torture, extrajudicial and enforced disappearance since 2014. Member States have a plateful of issues dealing with Venezuela in this current year. 

Let me finish with this numbers before a call to action:

  • 4.7 million people have fled Venezuela by December 2019, according to the UNHCR and IOM
  • At least 7 million people within the country live in urgent need of humanitarian assistance, according to the UN data.
  • 7,000 extra-judicial executions have been documented in the High Commissioner´s report delivered in July 2019
  • 9,000 political prisoners have been reported since 2014 to the Organization of American States.

My request to Member States is, NINE years after I started this fight here is to let those numbers sink in, and to turn all those pages written by Human Rights experts and the OHCHR into decisive action. 

Please take action -decisive action.

Thanks for you all on behalf of 30 million Venezuelans that have given me this space today. 

Thank you.

Click here to watch Maria-Alejandra Aristeguieta-Alvarez address the 2020 Geneva Summit for Human Rights and Democracy. For links to other speakers’ quotes, videos, livestream, and more, click here.