Caracas, Venezuela

President Nicolas Maduro announced Tuesday that a United Nations human rights office would begin operating in Venezuela once again, after it was suspended and its staff ordered to leave in February.

The change comes as Maduro is under fire at home and abroad over his leftist government’s human rights record as he cracks down on dissent while seeking a third term in power.

He has in particular drawn criticism for preventing a widely popular opposition leader from running against him in July elections he had pledged would be free and fair.

Maduro made the announcement Tuesday alongside Karim Khan, head of the International Criminal Court, who is investigating Venezuela for possible crimes against humanity in a violent crackdown on protests back in 2017.

“I have received the proposal to once again invite the office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Volker Turk, to be in our country, in Venezuela,” Maduro said, standing next to Khan at the presidential palace in Caracas.

“I agree. Let’s overcome our differences, the conflict that we had,” he added.

“I am ready to receive the envoy Volker Turk.”

It is not clear when the staff of the UN rights agency will return to Venezuela.

The order for them to leave the country within 72 hours came in February, two days after authorities detained prominent activist Rocio San Miguel.

San Miguel, 57, was arrested in the immigration area of an airport in Caracas, sparking an international outcry.

Prosecutors accused her of treason and terrorism for her purported role in an alleged plot to assassinate Maduro, which the government has said was backed by the United States.

San Miguel is the founder of an NGO called Citizen Control, which investigates security and military issues, such as the number of citizens killed or abused by security forces.

Foreign Minister Yvan Gil said at the time the UN rights office had taken on an “inappropriate role” and had become “the private law firm of the coup plotters and terrorists who permanently conspire against the country.”

Khan is in Venezuela after the country lost an appeal last month against the resumption of an investigation by the court into alleged crimes against humanity committed in 2017.

In April 2022, Caracas had asked Khan to halt his probe into a government crackdown on protests against Maduro, in which over 100 people died.

It had said it would carry out its own investigation.

But in June last year, the ICC authorized Khan to resume.

“It appears that Venezuela is not investigating the factual allegations… of crimes against humanity,” ICC judges said.



© Agence France-Presse


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