Venezuela to UN Rights Agency: You Have 72 Hours to Get Out

Agency had criticized arrest of prominent human rights lawyer
By Rob Quinn,  Newser Staff
Posted Feb 16, 2024 10:13 AM CST
Venezuela Orders Closure of UN Human Rights Agency
United Nations and Venezuelan flags hang outside the building that houses the Technical Advisory Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, in Caracas, Thursday, Feb. 15, 2024.   (AP Photo/Matias Delacroix)

After the United Nations human rights agency expressed concern about the arrest of a prominent human rights advocate, Nicolas Maduro's government ordered the agency's office in Venezuela's capital to close and said its 13 staff members had 72 hours to get out of the country. Foreign Affairs Minister Yván Gil said the Caracas office of the UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, which opened in 2019, had become a tool for "coup-plotters and terrorists" to conspire against Maduro's government, the New York Times reports.

In a post on X on Tuesday, the rights agency said it was looking into the detention of attorney Rocio San Miguel with "deep concern" and called for her immediate release. San Miguel, who faces charges of treason, conspiracy, and terrorism, was arrested at the Caracas airport Friday as she waited for a flight to Miami, the AP reports. Authorities didn't confirm the arrest until Sunday. Hours before Gil ordered the Caracas office to close, the rights agency said, "Due process guarantees, including right to defence, must be respected."

In a statement Monday, some 200 non-governmental organizations denounced San Miguel's detention as part of the "criminalization and persecution of the work of promoting and defending human rights" in Venezuela. Phil Gunson at the International Crisis Group tells the Times that the arrest and the expulsion of the UN agency "marks a drastic hardening" of Maduro's approach to critics and political rivals. (More Venezuela stories.)

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