Venezuela death squads are killing young men in extrajudicial attacks: UN report

Venezuelan security forces are sending death squads to murder young men and stage the scenes to make it look like the victims resisted arrest, the United Nations says in a report issued by its human rights chief on Thursday.

Government figures showed that deaths ascribed to criminals resisting arrest numbered 5,287 last year and 1,569 by May 19 this year. The UN report said many of them appeared to be extrajudicial executions.

Families of 20 men had described how masked men dressed in black from Venezuela’s Special Action Forces (FAES) had arrived in black pickup trucks without licence plates. In the accounts, the death squads broke into houses, took belongings and assaulted women and girls, sometimes stripping them naked.

“They would separate young men from other family members before shooting them,” the report said.

“In every case, witnesses reported how FAES manipulated the crime scene and evidence. They would plant arms and drugs and fire their weapons against the walls or in the air to suggest a confrontation and to show the victim had resisted authority.”

A group of men are frisked during a security operation in Caracas on April 1. The UN report says masked men from Venezuela’s security force are carrying out attacks in which they separate young men from their families before shooting them. (Yuri Cortez/AFP/Getty Images)

UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet visited Venezuela last month and is expected to present the report to the UN Human Rights Council on Friday.

The report said the killings were part of a strategy by President Nicolas Maduro’s government, aimed at “neutralizing, repressing and criminalizing political opponents and people critical of the government,” which has accelerated since 2016.

Bachelet said in a statement that she had the government’s commitment to work with the United Nations to resolve some of the thorniest issues, including the use of torture and access to justice, and to allow full access to detention facilities.

“I sincerely hope the authorities will take a close look at all the information included in this report and will follow its recommendations. We should all be able to agree that all Venezuelans deserve a better life,” she said.

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