On September 16, media reports revealed that United Nations (UN) investigators had emphatically stated the government of Venezuela committed egrarious (outstandingly bad or shocking in normal parlance) Crimes Against Humanity.
In a damning report quoted by the BBC, UN investigators said that cases of killings, torture, violence and disappearances were investigated in a fact-finding mission for the UN Human Rights Council (UNHRC). The UN team identified Venezuelan President Nicholas Maduro and other top officials as being implicated.
According to the BBC, the Mission’s Chairperson, Marta Valiñas in a statement said “The mission found reasonable grounds to believe that Venezuelan authorities and security forces, have since 2014 planned and executed serious human rights violations, some of which including arbitrary killings and the systematic use of torture which amount to Crimes Against Humanity”.
The report charged “…the crimes were co-ordinated and committed pursuant to state policies, with the knowledge or direct support of commanding officers and senior government officials.”
The report also covered what it terms Venezuelan government’s response to opposition protests and the torture of detained people. The UN body said – it reached its conclusion after ‘looking into’ 223 cases, corroborated by almost 3000 others. However, toward the end of the report investigators admitted they never visited the crime scene. Sri Lanka is no stranger to these ‘virtual’ investigations, where investigators interviewed alleged victims of war crimes, and sought corroboration from selected witness, with no provision for the accused to defend him/herself or question the witness. The 2011 report of the UN Secretary-General’s Panel of Experts on Accountability in Sri Lanka in the aftermath of the War Against Terror was carried out in a similar manner with no investigators stepping on Sri Lankan soil.
This column does not deny that civillians died in the ‘War on Terror’ or whether crimes may or may not have been committed against Venezuelan citizens. What is in question is the selective manner in which investigations are initiated and blame apportioned.
In both Sri Lanka and in Venezuela, foreign forces were involved in instigating unrest, planning and provision of logistics to the belligerents, external forces also participated in armed actions which led to civillian deaths. The UN makes no effort to either condemn, apportion, blame or suggest punitive action against these external actors for their role in the commission of war crimes or the killing of civillians. What is in dispute is the selection of nations to be investigated for commission of War Crimes. It appears only small and weaker nations are brought before the UN War Crimes Tribunal. While the UNHRC picks on countries in Africa, Asia or Latin America to highlight human rights abuse, it has studiously avoided charging massacres of massive proportions committed by western nations in Asia, Africa and the Middle East. For example, the Franco-British bombing of Libya led to destruction of that country’s entire infrastructure, destroyed its education system and caused innumerable civillian fatalities. Neither France nor Britain has been hauled before and questioned by the UNHRC. No talk of War Crimes, Crimes Against Humanity or investigations into culpability.
The US-British invasion of Iraq to eliminate non existent ‘Weapons of Mass Destruction’ in that country, led to thousands of deaths, the rise of the ISIS and caused untold loss of innocent lives and misery in that country and the Middle East region. The UN body has made no effort to investigate US war crimes committed from Japan to Germany to Vietnam to Iraq, Syria and Afghanistan.
Among some of the major Crimes Against Humanity committed by the US were the atomic bombing of the civillian populations of Hiroshima and Nagasaki during the closing stages of World War II when Japan was about to surrender. It is estimated that between 90,000 and 146,000 people in Hiroshima and 39,000 and 80,000 people in Nagasaki died in those attacks on August 6 and 9, 1945. Roughly half the deaths occurred on the first day!
According to www.Britanica.com during the US war in Vietnam, as many as two million Vietnamese civilians were killed. In addition, the US also used Agent Orange, a chemical weapon to destroy Vietnamese forest cover and food resources. US war crimes in Afghanistan have been widely documented and are widely known, but when the UNHRC said it was going to investigate these crimes, the US threatened sanctions against members of that body!!!.
If investigations are on and we have not heard of them…
A sad and shoddy record for the world body set up in the aftermath of World War II, to ensure such ‘incidents’ never take place again.