The United Nations on Friday said security forces in Venezuela have carried out several arbitrary killings under the guise of fighting crime. In a report, the UN Human Rights Council also said authorities in Venezuela had failed to hold the perpetrators accountable for serious human rights violations.

The report cited “shocking accounts” of young men being killed during crime-fighting operations in poor neighbourhoods between 2015 and 2017. The operations were apparently conducted without arrest warrants.

The UN Human Rights Council alleged that the extra-judicial killings were carried out by officers of the Operations for the Liberation of the People, , a government initiative to reduce crime launched in 2015. “The failure to hold security forces accountable for such serious human rights violations suggests that the rule of law is virtually absent in Venezuela,” said UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein. “For years now, institutional checks and balances and the democratic space in Venezuela have been chiseled away, leaving little room to hold the State to account. The impunity must end.”

About 125 people died in anti-government protests in 2017, reported Reuters. In at least 46 of them, security forces were allegedly responsible. “Evidence has reportedly disappeared from case files,” UN human rights spokesperson Ravina Shamdasani told reporters.

The human rights body recommended sending the report to the International Criminal Court. The report cited testimonies from several relatives of victims saying that they had lost trust in the judicial system and “did not expect the government to ensure accountability”.