The Fox inside the Henhouse: Venezuela at the UN

Pedro PizanoPedro is the Northwestern-McCain Public Interest Legal Fellow at the McCain Institute for International Leadership.

On September 27, 2019, the U.N. Human Rights Council created an independent international fact-finding mission for the grave human rights abuses being committed in Venezuela. It noted with “alarm” the grave human rights violations occurring in the country and the “erosion” of the rule of law. It urged that the fact-finding mission be dispatched “urgently” to “investigate extrajudicial executions, enforced disappearances, arbitrary detentions and torture and other cruel, inhumane or degrading treatment since 2014.”   

One day later, on September 28, 2019, the Human Rights Council “[e]xpresse[d] its deepest concern” at the serious human rights violations and mandated a comprehensive report.

Not ten days had passed since the publications of these resolutions, when, on October 17, 2019, the country to be investigated, Venezuela, won a vote to the body that created and oversees both of these investigations: The U.N. Human Rights Council.

The paradox of the human rights council has been amply documented, as has the human-created humanitarian disaster in Venezuela—even in July 2019 by the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights herself. It should not be surprising, but is sadly regrettable, that Costa Rica, the country on which the most important human rights court in the Americas sits, was only 9 votes shy of beating Venezuela for the seat.

What remains is a human-made disaster in Venezuela that continues to spiral out of control: it has created the largest recorded refugee crisis in the Americas, with more than four million people fleeing for their lives; 3.7 million people are currently malnourished; just in 2018, 5,287 people were murdered for “resist[ing] authority,” and 793 were detained as political prisoners.

The world needs to continue to point out the hypocrisy and pressure Venezuela to abandon its ill-begotten and ill-conceived socialism of the 21st century. It should not rely solely on the U.N., but establish independent bodies to prepare prosecution-ready briefs for when there is the possibility of justice. The fox does not belong in the henhouse.

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