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Venezuela must guarantee judicial impartiality - UN human rights expert

As political tensions continue to escalate in Venezuela, a United Nations independent human rights expert has called on the Government to “take all necessary measures to guarantee judicial independence,” following concerns that some pressure may have been placed on the country’s justice system “to act against the political opposition”.

“All Venezuelan State institutions must respect, promote and guarantee the independence and impartiality of the judiciary, including judges and prosecutors, so that that they can maintain their independence in the face of undue pressure,” said the expert, Diego García-Sayán, who specializes in safeguarding the independence of judges and lawyers around the world. “It is essential that the Constitution and human rights treaties are respected,” he added.

“I am concerned that pressure is being put on the judicial system to act against the political opposition.”

Tensions started escalating at the end of January, when Mr. Guaidó, head of the country’s National Assembly, challenged the legitimacy of the sitting President, Nicolás Maduro, and was declared interim president by the National Assembly. President Maduro has been in power since 2013 and was sworn in again for a second term on 10 January.

"The measures taken against Guaidó and the pressure being exerted on him are unacceptable,” stated the UN human rights expert, deploring the criminal investigation that is being conducted, “as this could be politically motivated,” he explained.

Mr. García-Sayán further noted that “statements already made by Tarek William Saab, a leading supporter of the incumbent President Maduro, about the Guaidó investigation may already be affecting the legal presumption of innocence” and that "the equitable, independent and impartial administration of justice, requires prosecutors to work in a way that is fair and which avoids any discrimination.”

Mr. García-Sayán called on Venezuela to “organise its State apparatus in a way that is compatible with its international obligations to guarantee the rule of law, the independence and impartiality of the judiciary and international human rights standards”.

[ full story on UN News ]

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Tensions escalate in Venezuela, civilians killed and injured: top UN officials lament excessive use of force by authorities

As tensions escalated on Saturday at various points along Venezuela’s borders with Colombia and Brazil, as well as within the country itself, resulting in the death and injury of various civilians, the United Nations chief, António Guterres, and the head of the UN human rights office (OHCHR), Michelle Bachelet, expressed their shock and appealed for calm.

The UN Secretary-General called for violence to be “avoided at any cost and for lethal force not to be used in any circumstances”. He urged “all actors to lower tensions and pursue every effort to prevent further escalation”.

Ms. Bachelet condemned “the excessive use of force used by the Venezuelan security forces, as well the involvement of pro-government elements”, which have resulted in at least four confirmed deaths and more than 300 injuries on Friday and Saturday, according to OHCHR.

“People have been shot and killed, others have reportedly received wounds from which they will never completely recover, including losing eyes,” she deplored. “These are disgraceful scenes. The Venezuelan government must stop its forces from using excessive force against unarmed protesters and ordinary citizens.”

Ms. Bachelet said she had received reports of numerous and, in some cases prolonged, violent incidents, at different points along the borders with Colombia and Brazil, as the Venezuelan security forces tried to halt the aid supplies coming into the country through closed border points.

OHCHR also received several reports pointing at the involvement of armed pro-government elements in the violent attacks on protestors, and Bachelet urged the Government “to rein in these groups and arrest those among them who have used force against protestors”.

“The use of proxy forces has a long and sinister history in the region,” she added. “And it is very alarming to see them operating openly in this way in Venezuela. The Government can, and must, stop them from exacerbating an already highly inflammable situation.”

 

story originally posed on UN News.

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Statement attributable to the Spokesperson for the Secretary-General on Venezuela

Statement attributable to the Spokesperson for the Secretary-General on Venezuela - 24 February 2019.

The Secretary-General is following with increasing concern the escalation of tensions in Venezuela.  He was shocked and saddened to learn that a number of civilians lost their lives in the context of yesterday’s events.

The Secretary-General appeals for violence to be avoided at any cost and for lethal force not to be used in any circumstances. 

The Secretary-General appeals for calm and urges all actors to lower tensions and pursue every effort to prevent further escalation.

New York, 24 February 2019

Stephane Dujarric,

Spokesman for the Secretary-General


 en espanol

Declaración atribuible al Portavoz del Secretario General sobre Venezuela

El Secretario General está siguiendo con creciente preocupación la escalada de tensiones en Venezuela. Al Secretario General le ha conmocionado y apenado la pérdida de vidas de civiles en el contexto de los acontecimientos de ayer.

El Secretario General pide que se evite la violencia a toda costa y que no se utilice fuerza letal en ninguna circunstancia.

El Secretario General apela a la calma e insta a todos los actores a reducir las tensiones y hacer todo lo posible para evitar una mayor escalada.

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Venezuelan refugees now number 3.4 million; humanitarian implications massive, UN warns

As the number of refugees and migrants from Venezuela continues to rise – hitting the 3.4 million mark this month – United Nations agencies sounded the alarm on Friday over the humanitarian needs these women, children and men face, and the strain this represents for communities hosting them.

The UN refugee agency (UNHCR) and the UN migration agency (IOM) issued statements based on data from national immigration authorities and other sources, showing that, on average, in 2018, 5,000 people left Venezuela every day in search of protection or a better life. The vast majority of them – 2.7 million – are hosted in countries of Latin America and the Caribbean.

Currently, Colombia hosts the highest number of Venezuelan refugees and migrants, with over 1.1 million. It is followed by Peru, with 506,000, Chile 288,000, Ecuador 221,000, Argentina 130,000, and Brazil 96,000. Mexico and other countries in Central America and the Caribbean are also hosting significant numbers of refugees and migrants from Venezuela.

“The countries of the region have shown tremendous solidarity with refugees and migrants from Venezuela, and implemented resourceful solutions to help them,”

“But these figures underscore the strain on host communities and the continued need for support from the international community, at a time when the world’s attention is on political developments inside Venezuela,” 

Eduardo Stein" title="joint UNHCR-IOM Special Representative for Venezuelan refugees and migrants

 To date, Latin American countries have granted about 1.3 million residence permits and other forms of regular status to Venezuelans. Asylum systems have also been reinforced in order to process an unprecedented number of applications. Since 2014, over 390,000 asylum claims have been lodged by Venezuelans – close to 60 per cent (232,000) happened in 2018 alone.

[ full story on UN News ]

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Guterres meets Venezuela Foreign Minister, reiterates humanitarian principles

United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres met on Friday with Jorge Arreaza, Foreign Minister of Venezuela, reiterated that the UN acts in accordance with the humanitarian principles of humanity, neutrality, impartiality and independence, working with Venezuelan institutions, to assist people in need. 

This is the third time that Minister Arreaza meets with the UN Secretary-General in just a few weeks.

During their meeting at UN headquarters in New York, they discussed the situation in the country and in the region, and Mr. Guterres urged the Venezuelan authorities not to use lethal force against demonstrators.

Amid deepening economic and political uncertainty, the UN has been supporting local institutions by providing medical kits for women and children, and aid teams are also delivering 100,000 treatments for severe acute malnutrition. Six temporary shelters have been set up in the western border states to house 1,600 people and offer them protection and information, as well as family kits containing food and clothing.

The World Health Organization (WHO) confirmed that it is continuing to work with the authorities through the Pan-American Health Organization (PAHO), notably to prevent and control communicable and non-communicable diseases. Immunization campaigns have been carried out to halt the spread of measles and diphtheria.

In a bid to help 3.6 million Venezuelans, including 2 million children, the UN humanitarian coordination office (OCHA) has appealed for nearly $110 million.

story oringinally posted on UN News.

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UN ready to rise above political fray and help Venezuelans based ‘on need, and need alone’

The situation for ordinary Venezuelans is increasingly critical but the United Nations remains committed to providing humanitarian support, based on “need, and need alone”, said a  senior aid official on Friday.

Speaking to journalists in Geneva, the UN’s aid coordinating branch, OCHA, underlined that it was observing developments at Venezuela’s border with Colombia, where an aid convoy arrived on Thursday.

“On the situation at the border, the UN is monitoring that situation closely,” said Jens Laerke from the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA). “The ideal scenario is that humanitarian aid is provided, independent of any political or other considerations than the pure humanitarian, and that is based on need and need alone.”

‘People were coming, starving’ to Colombia

At the border, the World Food Programme(WFP) confirmed that needs are at “crisis”-like levels inside Venezuela, where opposition politician Juan Guaido declared himself interim President last month, amid deepening economic and political uncertainty.

“How can we know if people are starving or not? Just stay at the border with Colombia, and look who is coming into Colombia,” said WFP senior spokesperson Hervé Verhoosel. He said 1.2 million people had come, “starving, in Colombia with no money, no food, no medicine…Yes of course there’s a crisis in the country.”

From April to December last year, the agency provided emergency food assistance to 290,000 people in the country’s border departments of Arauca, La Guajira, Norte de Santander and Nariño.

Venezuelan migrants, Colombian returnees and host communities have been assisted, Mr Verhoosel explained, adding that the flow of migrants into Colombia is expected to rise.

Several resident UN agencies work inside Venezuela including UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF), and the World Health Organization (WHO) in partnership with the Pan-American health Organization, UNAIDS, the UN refugee agency (UNHCR), UN Population Fund (UNFPA) and the UN Development Programme (UNDP).

In a bid to help 3.6m Venezuelans including two million children, OCHA has appealed for nearly $110 million.

[ read the full story on UN News ]

 

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Secretary-General's press encounter on Venezuela

04 February 2019

I’ve been following, of course with a lot of concern, the evolution of the situation in Venezuela. There have been a number of initiatives by several groups of countries. I’ve been in contact with the protagonists of all these initiatives, but the UN Secretariat has decided not to be part of any of these groups in order to give credibility to our continued offer of good offices to the parties to be able at their request to help find a political solution to the crisis.

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Solidarity needed to overcome ‘isolated’ attacks on Venezuela refugees, migrants

Attacks and hate speech against Venezuelans seeking shelter in neighbouring countries should be condemned “with a clear and forceful message of rejection” and solidarity, a top UN refugee agency (UNHCR) and UN migration agency (IOM) official said in a statement on Monday.

Eduardo Stein, Joint UNHCR-IOM Special Representative for Venezuelan refugees and migrants, made his comments after the UN Security Council met at the weekend to discuss the situation in the country, where opposition leader Juan Guaidó declared himself President on 23 January.

“Although isolated and unrepresentative, these acts of hatred, intolerance and xenophobia are extremely worrying,” Mr. Stein said, in his appeal to “several” unnamed countries.

“Racism, misogyny and xenophobia have no place in our countries and must be firmly condemned,” the UNHCR/IOM official added, his statement following a warning in November that the reception capacity of Venezuela’s neighbours was becoming severely strained.

While urging “political and opinion leaders” to call for “peace, justice, calm and restraint”, Mr. Stein also highlighted the importance of responsible traditional and online media reporting.

“The media and users of social networks…must report the facts in a responsible manner, without inciting xenophobic attitudes and actions and must also condemn all physical or verbal attacks against refugees, migrants and other foreign persons, when they occur,” said Mr. Stein, a former Guatemalan Vice-President.

According to UNHCR and IOM, thousands of people continue to leave Venezuela every day, amid an ongoing humanitarian crisis linked to an economy in freefall and continuing political upheaval.

More than three million Venezuelans have left their country since 2015, with 2.4 million in neighbouring or nearby countries. Most are in Colombia, which houses well over one million who have fled their homes.

This is followed by Peru (more than 500,000) Ecuador (more than 220,000), Argentina (130,000) Chile (more than 100,000) and Brazil (85,000).

In addition to South American countries, countries in Central America and the Caribbean also recorded increasing arrivals of refugees and migrants from Venezuela. Panama, for example, hosts at least 94,000 Venezuelans.

 

[ read the full story on UN News ]

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UN agencies launch emergency plan for millions of Venezuelan refugees and migrants

A new plan to cover the urgent needs of millions of Venezuelan refugees and migrants, coordinated by the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) and the International Organization for Migration (IOM), was launchedin Geneva on Friday

The plan, the first of its kind in the Americas, is a strategy to deal with an estimate three million people, the largest exodus from a single country in the region, in recent years. The vast majority of them have sought refuge in Latin American and Caribbean countries. The numbers leaving Venezuela have increased dramatically from 2017, and now, an average of 5,500 are crossing the border every day.

In the foreword to the plan, Eduardo Stein, UN Joint Special Representative for Venezuelan refugees and migrants, describes the challenges faced by Venezuelans he has met during his visits to the region, saying that they spoke of “hunger, lack of access to medical care, insecurity, threats, fear. They are families, women alone, children, young boys and girls, all in conditions of extreme vulnerability. All of them saw no other option than to leave their country – sometimes walking for days – seeking to live in dignity and to build a future.”

The launch of the plan was also an appeal for funding, focusing on four key areas: direct emergency assistance, protection, socio-economic and cultural integration; and strengthening capacities in the receiving countries. $738 million is needed in 2019, targeting 2.7 million people spread across 16 countries.

The UN agencies praised the generosity shown towards the refugees and migrants by regional host countries, described by Filippo GrandiUN High Commissioner for Refugees, as “humbling,” adding that the appeal underscores the urgency of this complex and fast-evolving situation and the need to support the host communities.” The infrastructure of these countries, and their ability to deal with the influx of refugees and migrants, are being stretched beyond capacity:

[This story was originally posted on UN News

 

Extracts from the Plan - related to the Caribbean

LACmap venemigrants

 


 

 

caribbeanmovements

 


caribfinanceneeded

 


Summary of  Objectives for 2019

DIRECT EMERGENCY ASSISTANCE

OBJECTIVE 1

Produce and disseminate information regarding the profile and vulnerability of refugees and migrants from Venezuela as well as affected host community, to relevant stakeholders to improve the response.

OBJECTIVE 2

Ensure refugees and migrants from Venezuela and vulnerable host communities have access to immediate basic needs, services, and assistance including NFI, shelter, food, WASH, health (including sexual and reproductive health as well as GBV related health interventions), and education.

PROTECTION

OBJECTIVE 1

Promote access to territory, alternative legal pathways, and legal aid and justice for refugees and migrants from Venezuela. 

OBJECTIVE 2

Strengthen community-based protection, grassroots refugee and migrant organizations, and two-way information gathering and sharing.

OBJECTIVE 3

Improve access to specialized services for refugees and migrants from Venezuela with specific needs such as GBV survivors, victims of human trafficking, UASC and others.

SOCIO-ECONOMIC AND CULTURAL INTEGRATION

OBJECTIVE 1

Support income generating interventions to improve the living conditions of refugees and migrants from Venezuela and vulnerable host communities.

OBJECTIVE 2

Create a welcoming environment for refugees and migrants from Venezuela, and support continued access to existing public services, including education and health.

CAPACITY STRENGTHENING

OBJECTIVE 1

Strengthen host governments’ essential services capacity and delivery, including in education, health, and social protection.

OBJECTIVE 2

Support policy, procedures, and systems development affecting refugees and migrants from Venezuela, including victims of human trafficking, as well as host communities, in compliance with humanitarian principles.

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UNHCR regrets deportations of Venezuelans from Trinidad and Tobago

UNHCR, the UN Refugee Agency in a press release issued today expressed it deeply regrets the deportation this past weekend by Trinidad and Tobago of 82 Venezuelan nationals. According to the agency, these include registered asylum-seekers and individuals who had declared an intention to apply for refugee status, making their return to Venezuela a breach of international refugee law.

“The forced return of this group is of great concern,” said Volker Türk, UNHCR’s Assistant High Commissioner for Protection. “We are in contact with the authorities and are seeking clarification on the legal process which has led to the deportations of this group, to ensure that Trinidad and Tobago continues to abide by its international obligations.”

The group, which had been held in detention in Trinidad and Tobago, was deported from the country on Saturday despite UNHCR’s request for access to the individuals concerned and written interventions.

UNHCR calls on Trinidad and Tobago to continue to abide by its international obligations as signatories to the 1951 Refugee Convention and other applicable international instruments that are incorporated into its official Refugee Policy, in particular the principle of non-return, known as non-refoulement, and Article 31 of the Convention which requests signatories “not to impose penalties, on account of their illegal entry or presence” to people who are in need of international protection.

The UN system in Trinidad and Tobago last Sunday, also indicated it was concerned by the return of Venezuelans. "The United Nations is concerned for the welfare of these people and is in contact with the appropriate authorities in Port of Spain to ensure that any person in need of protection will get it without fail," said the UN Resident Coordinator, Richard Blewitt, through a press release.

Mr. Blewitt’s comments came after the Ministry of National Security announced that 82 Venezuelan citizens who had been held in detention in Trinidad and Tobago, had been turned over to the Venezuelan Embassy for repatriation to Venezuela.

They were flown out of Trinidad and Tobago on Saturday aboard a Venezuelan Government aircraft. The Ministry statement said all returns were voluntary although this could not be verified independently by United Nations observers.

Venezuelans have been leaving their country in growing numbers, many in need of international protection and seeking temporary refuge in countries of the Americas region, including in some Caribbean small island states like Trinidad and Tobago.

The United Nations, including UNHCR and its local partners have encouraged the prompt adoption of national legislation on refugee issues, and work together to support the Government of Trinidad and Tobago in its efforts to develop, straighten and implement its asylum policy, as well as to support host communities, while offering guidance and assistance to people in need of international protection.

Información en español

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