Canada welcomes panel to investigate possible crimes against humanity in Venezuela

News Release

September 15, 2017 - Ottawa, Ontario - Global Affairs Canada

Canada is deeply concerned by the grave violations of human rights in Venezuela and is actively working with international partners to restore democracy and protect human rights.

The Honourable Chrystia Freeland, Minister of Foreign Affairs, today welcomed the appointment of Professor Irwin Cotler to the Organization of American States (OAS) Panel of Independent International Experts that will examine evidence collected on possible crimes against humanity committed in Venezuela.

The panel of international human rights experts is being assembled to support the former chief prosecutor of the International Criminal Court (ICC), Luis Moreno Ocampo, who has been appointed as special adviser on crimes against humanity by OAS Secretary General Luis Almagro. This process responds to ongoing reports of human rights abuses, including those detailed in a report issued by the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights on August 30.

The report determined that “extensive human rights violations and abuses have been committed in the context of anti-government protests in Venezuela and point to the existence of a policy to repress political dissent and instill fear in the population to curb demonstrations.” The panel will compile and evaluate information, and, if warranted, will submit its findings to the ICC.


“I am so pleased to support the appointment of my friend and former colleague Professor Cotler to this investigative panel and welcome his global experience with regard to human rights and the rule of law, which will be invaluable to the credibility and quality of this investigative process. This initiative represents a critical contribution by the OAS to uphold justice and human rights for the people of Venezuela.”

- Hon. Chrystia Freeland, P.C., M.P., Minister of Foreign Affairs

Quick Facts

  • According to the report issued by the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, as of July 31, the Attorney General’s Office has investigated 124 deaths linked to the protests. The security forces and pro-government armed groups are reportedly responsible for 73 of those deaths; however, the cause of the remaining 51 deaths has yet to be determined.

  • The report also states that from April 1 to July 31, investigations into at least 1,958 cases of reported injuries were opened in the context of demonstrations. In addition, 5,051 people have been detained since April 1, including 410 children, with 1,381 reportedly still in custody as of July 31. At least 609 civilians arrested in the context of the protests have been presented before military tribunals.

  • On July 30, Canada denounced the Maduro regime’s action to create an undemocratic constitutional assembly and called on the Government of Venezuela to uphold the rights enshrined in the UN Charter and in human rights treaties to which the country is a signatory.

  • Irwin Cotler is an emeritus professor of law at McGill University, chair of the Raoul Wallenberg Centre for Human Rights, former minister of justice and attorney general of Canada, and an international human rights lawyer.

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