Venezuela says 'adios' to the Inter-American Court of Human Rights(Read article summary)
President Maduro said the decision to leave the court is 'fair and just,' despite claims that it violates the country's Constitution.
Carlos Garcia Rawlins/Reuters
â€˘Â Timothy Gill contributes to WOLA's blog:Â Venezuelan Politics and Human Rights.Â The views expressed are the author's own.
[Yesterday] the Venezuelan government officially exits the Inter-American Court of Human Rights, one year after denouncing it.
In July 2012, then-President Hugo ChĂˇvezÂ decided to withdrawÂ from theÂ Inter-American Court of Human Rights after itÂ ruled in favorÂ of RaĂşl DĂaz PeĂ±a, a Venezuelan citizen convicted of putting bombs in front of the Colombian and Spanish Embassies in Caracas in 2000, and ordered the government to pay him reparations.
Although Venezuela will remain subject to existing rulings, and the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) will still be able to receive complaints from Venezuelan citizens, the IACHR will no longer be able to bring cases regarding Venezuela to the Inter-American Court of Human Rights, nor will Venezuelan citizens be able to directly address it.
Venezuelaâ€™s decisionÂ came as part of the long term conflict Venezuela has had with the Inter-American Human Rights System. In March 2013, the Venezuelan governmentÂ again rejectedÂ a petition fromÂ the IACHR to visit the country, citingÂ alleged tiesÂ between the organization,Â the US government, and anti-government NGOs in Venezuela. Venezuela and the countries that comprise the Bolivarian Alliance for the Americas (ALBA) have also recently developed several proposalsÂ to reform the IACHR.
Human rights groups throughout Venezuela have unanimously condemned the Venezuelan governmentâ€™s decision to withdraw from the human rights court,Â as they did inÂ the wake of it. Amnesty InternationalÂ has called uponÂ the Venezuelan government to reconsider its decision to withdraw so that it may continue â€śthe fight against impunity, [for] justice, truth, and reparations for victims.â€ť COFAVIC director, Liliana Ortega,Â stated thatÂ â€śhuman rights are not the gifts of states to give. The role of the [Inter-American Court of Human Rights] is very important. No national court has given a decision on the Caracazo, only the IACHR.â€ť
Red de Apoyo, a group that has worked with the Venezuelan government on several initiatives,Â has asked itÂ to retract its request to withdraw from the court, stating that this decision will only hurt the victims of human rights abuses. The group has also argued that the role of the state is to â€śattend to these victims, and assist them in their rehabilitation, reparations, and compensation for their damages.â€ť
The International Coalition of Human Rights Organizations in the Americas, which includes the Washington Office on Latin America (WOLA),Â has also issuedÂ aÂ press releaseÂ lamenting the Venezuelan governmentâ€™s decision, stating that â€śthe Court, like the Commission on Human Rights, are autonomous and independent bodies, which in the exercise of its functions have protected the rights of thousands of victims and citizens of our continent.â€ť
Several human rights groupsÂ have also sentÂ public letters the Organization of the American States and Mercosur voicing their concerns about the withdrawal. JosĂ© Miguel Vivianco, the Director of Human Rights Watchâ€™s America Division,Â sent a letterÂ to Brazilian President Dilma Roussef as well asÂ a letter toÂ Uruguayan President Pepe Mujica voicing his concerns and why he believes Venezuela must not withdraw from the Inter-American Court of Human Rights. In the letters, Mr. Vivianco argues that in â€śthe past year the human rights situation in Venezuela has continued to deteriorate.â€ť Most importantly, he says that â€śthe Venezuelan authorities have not adequately investigated some serious complaints about human rights violations that occurred after the presidential elections of April 2013.â€ť
Pedro Nikken, a former judge and president of the court,Â stated in an interviewÂ withÂ El UniversalÂ that that the Venezuelan governmentâ€™s decision will damage it much more thanÂ a few rulings against it. The decision to withdraw, he says, will â€śconfirm the suspicionsâ€ť of the international community that the Venezuelan government is an â€śautocratic embryo that develops more each day.â€ť
CriticsÂ have statedÂ that the decision to remove Venezuela from the international body also violates the Venezuelan Constitution. Specifically, critics call attention to Article 31, whichÂ states that: â€śEveryone has the right, on the terms established by the human rights treaties, pacts and conventions ratified by the Republic, to address petitions and complaints to the intentional organs created for such purpose, in order to ask for protection of his or her human rights.â€ť
The Mesa de la Unidad DemocrĂˇtica (MUD), the umbrella organizationÂ of opposition political parties,Â released a statementÂ today, arguing that this decision is â€śone of the most serious actions taken against the protection of human rights by the current regime.â€ť The statement also calls upon the international community to demand that â€śthe Venezuelan government act in accordance with the progress made by humanityâ€ť in the area of human rights.
On Monday, President MaduroÂ stated that theÂ decision to leave the court is â€śfair and just.â€ť He stated that theÂ Inter-American Court of Human Rights has â€śpassed its timeâ€ť and that both the Court and the IACHR â€śhave unfortunately degenerated. They believe they are a supranational power; they believe they are a power above the legitimate governments of the continent.â€ť
GermĂˇn SaltrĂłn, the Venezuelan representative to the Inter-American System of Human Rights,Â recently said thatÂ â€śThe American Convention [on Human Rights] is much beneath [the Venezuelan] Constitution in human rights material, which guarantees more and is more advanced in that material, so Venezuelans will not be unprotected, and we will also have the protection of the United Nations.â€ť
But the United NationsÂ itself has criticized Venezuelaâ€™s withdrawal from the Court. Rupert Colville, the spokesperson for the UNâ€™s Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights,Â stated that theÂ organization believes that the Venezuelan governmentâ€™s decision to withdraw â€świll have a very negative impact on the situation of fundamental rights within the country and the region.â€ť Mr. Colville encouraged the â€śgovernment of Venezuela and all other Latin American states to continue cooperating with the international mechanisms for the protection of human rights.â€ť
- Timothy Gill contributes to WOLA's blog:Â Venezuelan Politics and Human Rights.