The United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, Volker Türk, began a visit of "solidarity, dialogue and action" in Venezuela on Thursday, where he plans to meet with authorities of the government of President Nicolás Maduro and civil society groups.
"Satisfied to engage with various victims' and civil society groups on my first day in Venezuela. My visit is one of solidarity, dialogue and action. All countries need and deserve a free and vibrant civic space," Türk poste4d on Twitter after completing his first day of work in the country.
The UN official, who will be in Venezuela until Saturday, was invited in November last year, when Vice-President Delcy Rodríguez went to Geneva to denounce the impact of the economic measures imposed by the United States. Rodríguez then called for the inclusion of a task force to measure the impact of the sanctions.
Communication minister Freddy Ñáñez posted a video on Twitter of the arrival of Türk, who later met with foreign minister Yván Gil.
"We reviewed the progress (of the) Bolivarian government, and conveyed (the) need to lift the illegal sanctions that cause so much damage to the rights of the people," Gil wrote.
Alonso Medina Roa, a lawyer defending political prisoners, criticised, however, that Türk "fleetingly attended to representatives" of NGOs and "then gave a few minutes to a small group of victims and relatives of political prisoners".
"Venezuelan civil society deserves more attention and time," he said.
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Ninety NGOs, for their part, reiterated in a public letter their request to the High Commissioner to "reinforce" the work in the protection of human rights, and called on the office to play an "active role" in guaranteeing the visit of more UN rapporteurs "without limiting itself to those that the Venezuelan state decides to invite."
It is "necessary to raise our voices, publicly and at the highest level (...) and reinforce the joint work to prevent and definitively stop the grave violations that continue to occur in Venezuela in a systematic way", the NGOs said.
Türk's predecessor, former Chilean president Michelle Bachelet, set up a commission in Venezuela in 2019 to monitor and assist in the human rights situation amid a wave of complaints from victims of rape and torture by state security forces.
In her last report in office, Bachelet said she saw progress on rights in Venezuela, although she indicated that there was still "more to do." She also called for the release of arbitrarily detained people and expressed concern about the "prosecution" or "stigmatisation" of NGO workers, human rights defenders and journalists, among others.
Türk arrives in Venezuela from Colombia and Ecuador, where he also stayed for two days.