Arria-Formula Meeting on Venezuela
Council members are expected to take part in an Arria-Formula meeting on Monday afternoon (13 November) on the situation in Venezuela. The meeting has been organised by the US in partnership with Italy. Briefers will include Luis Almagro, Secretary-General of the Organization of American States (OAS); Zeid Ra’ad al Hussein, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights; Joseph Donnelly of Caritas Internationalis; and Julio Henriquez of the Venezuelan human rights non-governmental organisation Foro Penal. Council members will be invited to make statements following the briefings. The meeting is open to all UN member states, UN-accredited non-governmental organisations and the media.
According to a concept note circulated ahead of the meeting, the discussion is expected to focus on the deteriorating political, economic and social situation in Venezuela, and its potential humanitarian impact on the region. The organisers have further indicated that the meeting will provide an opportunity to discuss the role that international and regional actors can play in seeking a political solution.
Almagro is expected to reiterate his characterisation of the situation in Venezuela as a complete breakdown of the democratic order and to denounce the systematic violation of the Inter-American Democratic Charter. Almagro, who has criticised the illegitimacy of the Consitutent Assembly, has also condemned the fraud and irregularities of the 15 October gubernatorial elections.
During the wave of protests in Venezuela in early 2017, the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights denounced mounting levels of repression of political dissent by national security forces, and increasing stigmatisation and persecution of people perceived as opposing the government. In September, Al-Hussein said that Venezuelan security forces may have committed “crimes against humanity” during the deadly protests and called for an international investigation. The OAS has appointed an independent panel of international experts to analyse whether the situation in Venezuela merits referral to the ICC.
Henriquez is expected to highlight the numbers of political prisoners and discuss instances of arbitrary detention and violations of due process. He will probably address the use of torture and the ill-treatment of prisoners that has been documented by Foro Penal. Donnelly is likely to highlight the impact of the deteriorating economic situation, particularly the health care and food crises, on Venezuela’s population.
Although the human rights and humanitarian situations are expected to be the focus of the discussion, Council members are likely to highlight the importance of dialogue in deescalating the current situation. While delegations from the government and the opposition have held meetings in the Dominican Republic in a process led by the host country and former Spanish Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero, this has not resulted in substantive negotiations. On 25 October, a group of twelve American countries, known as the Lima Group, urged the UN Secretary-General to increase his engagement on Venezuela.
This is the first time that Council members will meet on Venezuela since a 17 May discussion under “any other business.” At that meeting, Council members were divided over whether the Council should engage on this issue. Several members maintained that the situation did not qualify as a threat to international peace and security, and that engaging on the issue constituted interference in the domestic affairs of Venezuela. Furthermore, it seems that some member states from the region, while mindful of the gravity of the situation, consider that the message sent by holding the Arria-formula meeting may contribute to the country’s polarisation rather than encourage political dialogue. Members with concerns about Venezuela’s sovereignty may reiterate their views at Monday’s meeting. However, other Council members are expected to highlight the value of this discussion in raising awareness of the situation with the aim of preventing it from deteriorating further. These members are worried about the harmful consequences of the crisis on civilians in Venezuela, as well as its negative humanitarian impact across the country’s borders.