Human Rights Watch (HRW) accused Venezuelan security forces under the command of Nicolás Maduro of the extrajudicial executions of at least four civilians, arbitrary detentions and torture, among other “aberrant abuses” against the population of the state of Apure, bordering Colombia.
The organization framed its accusations in the context of the offensive launched in March by the tyrant Nicolás Maduro against alleged irregular groups in that state, and asked the Prosecutor’s Office of the International Criminal Court (ICC) and the UN Fact-Finding Mission for Venezuela to investigate the matter.
In a report, HRW assured that the Venezuelan operation “resulted in the execution of at least four peasants, arbitrary detentions, the prosecution of civilians before military tribunals, and torture against residents accused of collaborating with armed groups.”
“The atrocities committed against residents of Apure are not isolated incidents by insubordinate agents, but are consistent with systematic abuses by Maduro’s security forces,” said HRW’s Americas director, José Miguel Vivanco, quoted in the report.
Last March, the Bolivarian National Armed Forces (FANB) began fighting in Apure against irregular groups that the authorities never identified, but which the NGO Fundaredes described as alleged dissidents of the dissolved Colombian FARC guerrillas.
The conflict lasted for almost three weeks and caused the displacement of more than 6,000 Venezuelans to Colombia, according to Fundaredes data.
HRW alleges in its report that many of the detainees “were not members of armed groups” but of the local population, after interviewing 38 people who had fled Apure, as well as 30 lawyers, forensic experts, community leaders, journalists, Colombian authorities and representatives of humanitarian groups.
The displaced persons interviewed identified the FANB, the Special Action Forces (FAES) of the Bolivarian National Police, the Bolivarian National Guard (GNB) and the National Anti-Extortion and Kidnapping Command (CONAS) as responsible for the abuses.
The aforementioned executions affected four peasants of the same family, who were taken by the FAES on March 25 from their house in La Victoria, the report states.
“Their bodies were found a kilometer and a half away, in El Ripial, with cuts, bullet wounds and presumed bone dislocations. Forensic experts concluded that photographs of the bodies suggest that they had been moved and that the firearms and grenades seen next to their hands could have been planted,” the text states.
Emir Remolina, 26, recognized the bodies as those of his parents, brother and uncle, and at least 13 people interviewed by HRW affirmed that the victims were not guerrillas, “but peasants who had lived and worked there for more than 15 years.”
In La Victoria and in the rural areas of El Ripial, Los Arenales, La Capilla and La Osa, Venezuelan agents “forcibly entered several homes” without a search warrant and detained their residents, mostly peasants.
“The agents ordered the detainees to cover their heads with their T-shirts and beat them, threw them to the ground and threatened to kill them,” the report states.
Two detainees who were later released confirmed that “they were held in military facilities,” and the abuses also included looting of their homes and destruction of “personal effects, food and household goods.”