Venezuela's president and top ministers are responsible for probable crimes against humanity including extrajudicial killings and the systematic use of torture, UN investigators said on Wednesday.
In their first report, the team tasked with probing a slew of alleged violations said they had found evidence that state actors, including President Nicolas Maduro, were behind serious crimes.
The report suggested the International Criminal Court should "consider legal actions against individuals responsible for violations and crimes."
The International Fact-Finding Mission, created by the UN Human Rights Council a year ago, "found reasonable grounds to believe that Venezuelan authorities and security forces have since 2014 planned and executed serious human rights violations," mission chairperson Marta Valinas said.
Some of those violations, "including arbitrary killings and the systematic use of torture, amount to crimes against humanity," said Ms Valinas, whose three-person team was unable to enter Venezuela but relied on remote interviews with victims, witnesses and others, as well as analysis of legal files.
"Far from being isolated acts, these crimes were coordinated and committed pursuant to state policies, with the knowledge or direct support of commanding officers and senior government officials."
The 411-page report identified the Venezuelan officials deemed responsible, citing "reasonable grounds to believe that both the President and the Ministers of People's Power for Interior Relations, Justice and Peace, and for Defence, ordered or contributed to the commission of the crimes documented."
Investigator Francisco Cox told reporters the team had found evidence the president had on some occasions personally informed the national intelligence service who to place under surveillance and detain.
"We have involvement and contribution to the crime by Mr Maduro, either directly through the chain of command and sometimes circumventing the chain of command and giving the direct order," he said.