Houses invaded without a court order, families dragged into the open to be executed, night escapes for fear of airstrikes and torture. This nightmare has been part of the routine of residents of Apure Department, Venezuela, near the Colombian border, since March 21.
The complaints are part of a report prepared by Human Rights Watch and released on Monday (26). According to the NGO, the actions were carried out by four units of the Venezuelan security forces: the army, the Special Action Forces (Faes), the Bolivarian National Guard (GNB) and the National Command against Extortion. and kidnappings (CONAS) and they have already caused the migration of 5,800 people to Colombian territory and the internal displacement of hundreds of people in Venezuela.
The document was produced from interviews with 68 people who claim to have been abused.
Of these, 38 are in Colombian territory and the rest are still in Venezuela. Videos recorded by residents of the border region were also used, and lawyers, experts, community leaders, Colombian authorities and human rights organizations working in the region were heard.
“The atrocities committed against the people of Apure are not isolated incidents caused by rebellious agents. They are consistent with the systematic abuses perpetrated by Maduro’s security forces, ”said José Miguel Vivanco, director for the Americas at Human Rights Watch.
The NGO compared the functioning of units operating in the region with the techniques and formats used in Venezuelan territory on other occasions. Vivanco is aware of the need for “international investigations into these crimes”, as the volume of evidence shows that these actions are escalating.
Shortly after the first attacks, the Venezuelan regime claimed that the actions were directed against illegal Colombian armed groups operating in the region. Colombia, for its part, responds that dissidents of Colombian guerrillas and criminal factions find refuge in Venezuela with Maduro’s consent.
However, reports from civilians who were victims of the advances show that many of them were not part of any criminal association and that the house invasions and executions were carried out illegally, without presentation of court orders and without the right to justice. defense .
Venezuelan Defense Minister Vladimir Padrino López announced at the time that the operation had arrested 33 terrorists and that six camps belonging to Colombian criminal groups had been dismantled. Among them, he said the most wanted was a dissident FARC (Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia) known as Frente Décima Martín Villa.
The FARC guerrillas were demobilized thanks to a peace agreement signed between the group and the Colombian state. Today, former FARC members have entered politics through the Communes Party and do not recognize the connection of dissidents with the current position of the ex-guerrilla, which is to participate democratically in political decisions of the Communes. Colombia. According to residents’ reports, Venezuelan officers searched the homes of civilians unrelated to these groups and carried out searches, arrests and executions without prior investigation into their participation in illegal operations.
The report also draws attention to the need to resolve the situation of people displaced by the conflict. Most of the 5,800 Venezuelans who fled to Colombia are in small towns, like La Arauquita, with only 50,000 residents and unable to adequately house this population, especially during a pandemic.
According to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, Colombian border municipalities such as La Arauquita, Arauca and Saravena need help to house migrants from Apure. HRW reports that civilian homes and homes are overcrowded.
The NGO tried to contact the Venezuelan regime to question the situation of those affected by the actions, but received no response. According to the document, “the Venezuelan judiciary will not normally investigate the overwhelming evidence of widespread human rights violations.”
In conclusion of the report, Human Rights Watch calls on the International Criminal Court and the United Nations to “examine the possible responsibility of those directly involved in the extrajudicial killings, arbitrary detentions and torture in Apure.”