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UN condemns extrajudicial killings in Venezuela

A UN report is calling for the Venezuelan government to bring perpetrators of human rights violations to justice. The UN human rights chief said "impunity must end" in the crisis-stricken country.

The United Nations human rights chief Zeid Ra'ad Al Hussein on Friday called for an internal investigation into human rights violations in Venezuela.

The report appealed to the government to bring perpetrators to justice, citing what it said were shocking accounts of extrajudicial killings of young men during crime-fighting operations conducted without arrest warrants in poor neighborhoods.

Read more: Venezuela: A country in meltdown

"The failure to hold security forces accountable for such serious human rights violations suggests that the rule of law is virtually absent in Venezuela," said Zeid Ra'ad Al Hussein, as the UN presented the report.

Venezuela has been experiencing a political and economic crisis since 2012 under the rule of Hugo Chavez, and it has continued with current president Nicolas Maduro.

UN investigators denied access

Some of the findings of the UN, which has been denied access to Venezuela, were based on remote monitoring as well as interviews with victims, witnesses, civil society groups and others.

Read more: Can Germany be a new home for young Venezuelans?

Other evidence includes material compiled by former Attorney General Luisa Ortega Diaz, who was sacked by President Nicolas Maduro in August 2017 and went into exile.

A copy of the report has been sent to the ICC, whose prosecutor opened a preliminary inquiry into Venezuela in February.

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'Extreme injustice'

At least 125 people died during protests against Maduro in 2017, which he said was an attempt to overthrow him.

Hyperinflation has devastated the country, causing shortages of food and medicine, and hundreds of thousands of people have fled to escape increasing deprivation.

Read more: Venezuela: UN agency warns of humanitarian 'catastrophe'

"Families are having to search for food in rubbish bins," Zeid said. "When a box of hypertension pills costs more than the monthly minimum wage and baby milk formula more than two months' salary, but protesting against such an impossible situation can land you in jail, the extreme injustice of it all is stark," he continued.

Maduro blames the economic crisis on an "economic war" directed by the opposition and the United States – which has placed new sanctions on Venezuela's oil industry.

The president has tried to regain the trust of the country since he was re-elected in May and has promised to work for reconciliation. He has freed dozens of political prisoners in an attempt to "overcome the wounds" of the protests against him.

In May, an international panel of experts found that Venezuelan government officials had committed crimes against humanity and should be prosecuted by the International Criminal Court (ICC).

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law/kms (AFP,  Reuters)

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