Geneva - United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights Volker Türk Saturday called on Venezuela to reform its political and judicial system and to release arbitrarily detained prisoners. He made his remarks at the end of a two-day official visit to Venezuela.
During his visit, Turk met with senior officials, civil society representatives, victims' groups, and human rights defenders.
He said that from what he had seen and heard, it was clear Venezuelan society was riven by a profound loss of trust between the government and the people. He said much work is needed to overcome these divisions and rebuild the social contract among Venezuelans.
United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) Volker Turk looks on next to Human Rights Reporting Officer Helene Devaux, and Jose M. Aranaz during a news conference in Caracas, Venezuela, Jan. 28, 2023.
Speaking from the capital, Caracas at the end of his visit, Türk said Venezuela faced many political, economic, and social challenges. However, based on his discussions, he said there appears to be a general recognition that the country's justice and security systems must be reformed.
"I heard accounts of people being arbitrarily detained and tortured, and of family members being killed in security operations and demonstrations. One woman was overcome with emotion as she recounted how two years ago her sister had been detained, raped, and tortured," he said.
Türk said that in his meetings with President Nicolas Maduro and government ministers, he called for the release of everyone arbitrarily detained.
He said he also raised concerns about the use of extensive and lengthy pre-trial detention. He told them a system that deprived people of their liberty was open to abuse and must be reformed.
"I was given commitments that torture complaints would be addressed decisively, fully investigated and those responsible brought to justice. ... My team here conducts regular visits to detention centers but, as I flagged to the authorities, this needs to include all detention centers, including the ones run by the military," he said.
After meeting with Maduro Friday, Türk said Maduro publicly expressed his readiness to work toward improving the justice system. He said he, in turn, offered his office's expertise and support to further reforms.