New police units in Venezuela, which replaced the dissolved Special Action Forces (FAES), are facing allegations of human rights abuses. John Alvarez, who appeared in court on charges of conspiring against President Nicolas Maduro’s government, claimed that police officers subjected him to electric shocks, beatings, and torture to extract a confession. Despite the dissolution of the FAES due to massive complaints of human rights abuses, activists accuse the new brigades of arbitrary arrests, forced disappearances, extrajudicial executions, and torture.
Alvarez, a 24-year-old university student, suffered injuries to his kidney, leg, and left eye, resulting in partial loss of vision. His family and defense lawyers attribute these injuries to agents from the new police divisions. The United Nations had previously called for the disbandment of the FAES, accusing it of extrajudicial executions in impoverished areas. However, officials accused of abuses were reassigned to units such as the Directorate of Strategic and Tactical Actions, the Directorate of Criminal Investigation, and the Directorate Against Organized Crime, all of which have also faced allegations of brutality.
Activist Marino Alvarado stated that despite the creation of new structures, serious human rights violations continue to persist. Former FAES director Jose Miguel Dominguez, who was sanctioned by the United States, now holds a high-ranking position in the national police. Alvarez’s lawyer, Joel Garcia, revealed that around 10 agents were involved in his client’s case, with five of them fully identified but facing no consequences thus far.
A UN observer mission accused the Maduro government of “selective repression” and presented a report to the UN Human Rights Council, citing arbitrary deprivations of life, disappearances, forced arrests, arbitrary detentions, torture, and sexual violence against detainees. Venezuela’s Foreign Minister, Yvan Gil, defended the security organizations, stating they act in accordance with international protocols and that the country sanctions any non-observance of human rights. Attorney General Tarek William Saab claimed that over 500 officials have been convicted of human rights violations since 2017.
Venezuela is also under investigation by the International Criminal Court for alleged crimes against humanity. Alvarez, who was linked to union leaders sentenced to prison, was detained for allegedly posting a pamphlet on a bust of Simon Bolivar, the country’s independence hero. The Alvarez family is demanding his release.