UN rights chief criticises Venezuela ahead of Maduro address

The UN rights chief raised “serious concerns” about the credibility of Venezuela’s judicial system ahead of an address by the country’s president, Nicolas Maduro, at the human rights council.

UN rights chief Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein delivered a short video message before the speech from Maduro, whose appearance at the council has been fiercely criticised by civil society groups and activists over what they describe as the Venezuelan president’s appalling human rights record.

Multiple organisations, including the UN, “have raised serious concerns about the independence of the judiciary in Venezuela, the impartiality of judges and prosecutors and the pressures they face in handling politically sensitive cases,” Zeid said.

He highlighted the case of Leopoldo Lopez as a “stark illustration of these problems.”

Lopez, leader of opposition party Popular Will, is in prison in a case that his supporters and independent observers insist is politically motivated.

The exiled coordinator of Popular Will, Carlos Vecchio, on Wednesday asked the International Criminal Court (ICC) to probe Maduro and others in his government for crimes against humanity including alleged murder and torture.

Venezuela holds legislative elections in December, and with Maduro’s popularity plummeting, political analysts say the opposition could make major gains.

“It is one of the key obligations of a sovereign state to uphold human rights and to defend those — indeed especially those — who disagree with the state’s policies,” Zeid said.

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