The investigators said the information they received showed that Maduro and the various ministers of the interior and defence over the period examined were aware of the crimes and “gave orders, coordinated activities, and supplied resources in furtherance of the plans and policies set out in the report.”
The extent of their involvement in these crimes “must be investigated and a determination of their individual criminal responsibility either in a national or international jurisdiction must be made by the competent judicial authorities,” the panel said.
There was no official comment from the Venezuelan government, but the foreign minister, Jorge Arreaza, posted on Twitter that it was “a report plagued by falsehoods, written remotely, without any methodological rigour by a ghost mission biased against Venezuela, and controlled by governments subordinated to Washington”.
The report, which will be presented to the Human Rights Council in Geneva next week, delivers a devastating critique of Maduro’s embattled government at a point when it has made conciliatory gestures seemingly aimed at improving its image and legitimacy at home and abroad and easing the pressure of US sanctions on Venezuela’s crippled economy.
The government in August released 50 political opponents and said it would end prosecutions of dozens of opposition politicians and political activists in an attempt to avert an opposition boycott of congressional elections planned for December. Among those released from prison was Juan Requesens, accused by the government of involvement in a failed 2018 assassination plot against Maduro. He was moved to house arrest.
It also stepped up cooperation with the UN office for human rights over the past year, allowing officials to visit a number of prisons and interview detainees and promising to investigate allegations of extrajudicial killings and the deaths of anti-government protesters.
Michelle Bachelet, the United Nations’ high commissioner for human rights, said in a statement on Monday that her staff last week visited the main detention centres of the Bolivarian National Intelligence Service and the Directorate General of Military Counter-Intelligence.