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#FreeAlexSaab: UN Special Rapporteur Berates Spate Of Human Rights Violation In Venezuela, Calls For Lift Of Blockade

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Alex Saab

Following the increased cases of human rights violation in Venezuela, Alena Douhan, the United Nations Special Rapporteur to the country, has advocated lifting of blockade on the country by the United States over the humanitarian crisis in the country.

This, according to Professor of International law and director of the Peace Research Center (Minsk), would go along way in reducing the cases of violation of rights of residents, especially state officials.

Douhan, who was sent to Venezuela by the UN, to investigate first-hand the negative impact of unilateral coercive measures and their consequent violation of human rights, which resulted in a preliminary report.

According to the report by the Rapporteur, the various sanctions on Venezuela involves recognizing that targeted and secondary sanctions violate the rights to a fair trial, due process, freedom of movement, property rights and the right to reputation which has led to the violation of the rights of state officials to hold and express opinions, and to participate in public affairs.

This is coming at a time where Alex Saab, the Venezuelan diplomat to Iran continue to be in detention after being arrested last July in Cape verde on the order of the United States.

Saab was arrested and detained in Cape Verde based on the request of the Donald Trump led United States government over allegations of money laundering, a move the Venezuelan government faulted with claims that the businessman is its special envoy on a humanitarian mission.

However, the Venezuelan government has claimed that before his arrest, Saab had been on a mission to get food and medical supplies in Iran, stopping over in Cape Verde where he was arrested by security operatives.

Despite a ruling by the ECOWAS court, and the call by various organisations, including the African Bar Association, Cape Verde authorities have continued to hold Saab in detention on the instruction of the US government, who have continued to push for his extradition.

The style of Saab’s arrest is a replica of a recent method to trigger detention and or deportation by a host country’s institutions as highlighted in a report on The Global Scale and Scope of Transnational Repression by Freedom House. Before Saab the United States held Russian national Alexey Kharis for 15 months in Immigration and Customs Enforcement
(ICE) detention after being arrested on the basis of an Interpol notice.

In the last two decades, numerous governments have learned that
red notices, which was used in Saab’s case, and other notifications provide a cheap and easy means of reaching exiles. Contrary to popular belief, Interpol is not an international police agency, nor does it have a judicial function to determine the veracity of notices before they enter the system. It simply allows member states to share notifications about wanted criminals or missing persons with one another.

Another pattern identified in the report, obtainable in Saab’s case, is the co-opting of other countries. A significant part of the transnational repression toolkit hinges
on co-opting other countries’ institutions to detain, deport, or render individuals. A request for extradition or the submission
of purported “national security information” in an asylum case that results in detention creates opportunities to have the target eventually returned to the country. Even when detentions do not lead to the individual’s return, they disrupt
the target’s life, create stress and trauma, impose severe financial penalties from lost work and legal fees, and intimidate
the target’s network. In Saab’s case, he has been held in detention by Cape Verde authorities, on the request of the US government for eight months.

The unilateral coercive measures by the US against Venezuela began in 2005 when it introduced selective sanctions against individuals and entities allegedly involved in drug trafficking after President Hugo Chávez had declared the culmination of all joint operations and military exchanges with the Pentagon, a measure that was not to the liking of the US government.

In 2006, another embargo was imposed by the US because it considered that the Government was not sufficiently cooperating in anti-terrorist efforts.

In 2015, Barack Obama through an Executive Order declared Venezuela an unusual and extraordinary threat to the security of the United States. The executive order, which was joined by six other countries, was issued by the administration of Donald Trump. The US has also issued more measures to undermine the Venezuelan economy and the quality of life of the population since 2017.

However, according to a report on the findings of the Special Rapporteur, the “coercive measures” against the country has aggravated the problems of the
mono-oriented Venezuelan economy.

Citing data from the Presidency, the report noted that the income of the Ulisses Correia e Silva led Presidency has been reduced by 99% and the country is currently living with 1% of its income prior to the sanctions. It also stressed that the remittances from abroad have decreased due to the blocking of State assets and the complexity of bank transfers and the impediments to make them leading to an hyperinflation that has pulverized the salaries of public institutions over the last four years.

Describing the current state of infrastructure and basic services as devastating, the Rapporteur highlighted that the unavailability of financial resources and the reluctance of foreign companies to trade with Venezuelan public and often private institutions has led to a situation in which power lines can work today at less than 20% of their capacity and most public services have been depleted by 30% to 50% of their staff, including the most
qualified (doctors, nurses, engineers, teachers, professors, judges, police, etc.), which has led to internal disorganization, an increased workload for the remaining staff, a reduction in services and a decrease in their quality.

Speaking further on the economic and humanitarian situation in the country, the Rapporteur noted that impediments to food imports, which constitute more than 50% of national consumption, have led to the steady growth of malnutrition over the past 6 years, with more than 2.5 million people severely food insecure and the impediments to health care include lack of or severe insufficiency of medicines and vaccines; rising prices; electricity shortages to supply equipment; water shortages and sanitation problems affecting hygiene; deterioration of infrastructure due to lack of maintenance, lack of spare parts, unavailability of new equipment due to lack of resources or refusal to sell or deliver them; degradation of working conditions and lack of protective equipment against infectious diseases; loss of staff in all medical areas due to low salaries; and completion of construction of hospitals and primary care centers.

She added that school and university education has faced a severe decrease in government support since 2016, including the termination or reduction of the supply of school uniforms, shoes, backpacks and office supplies; and the reduction in the number of daily school meals (from 2 to 1), the decrease in their quantity and diversity of food or their total cancellation.

She charged the government to continue to maintain cooperation international organisations like UNDP, UNICEF, UNAIDS, PAHO, other international agencies, as well as with the church, the private sector and humanitarian NGOs that provide aid, facilitating some reconstruction of water systems and the supply of vaccines,
medicines, tests, reagents, school supplies and food.

She noted that the coercive measures against the country does not correspond to the requirements of Art. 4 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, such as the existence of a threat to the life of the nation and the blockade on strategic sectors of the Venezuelan economy like oil, gold,
mining, constitutes a violation of international law.

She stressed that the sanctions affect individuals in Venezuela and outside its territory, both in the public and private sectors; third-country nationals and employees of third-country
companies affected by the secondary sanctions or by the fear of sanctions; donors and international humanitarian NGOs; beneficiaries of assistance from international
organizations traditionally funded by Venezuela; while low-income people, women, children and people with special needs or with chronic or serious illnesses are the most affected with respect to the whole range of human rights, including civil, political, economic, social and cultural rights and the right to development.

“The governments of the UK, Portugal and the US and the corresponding
banks to unfreeze the assets of the Central Bank of Venezuela (BCV) to acquire medicines, vaccines, food, medical and other equipment, spare parts and other essential goods to guarantee the humanitarian needs of the Venezuelan people and the reestablishment of public services in collaboration with the UNDP and other UN agencies and through agreed cooperation and supervision mechanisms,” she added.

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