UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay [official website] urged [press release] Venezuela [BBC backgrounder; JURIST news archive] on Tuesday to re-commit to the American Convention on Human Rights [text], the treaty that empowers the Inter-American Court of Human Rights (IACHR) [official website, in Spanish]. Venezuela, under the edict of President Hugo Chavez [BBC profile; JURIST news archive], withdrew from the court [JURIST report] in July, but had not officially withdrawn from the treaty. Pillay praised the IACHR and expressed concern that Central America's human rights progress may be set back by Venezuela's renouncing the treaty.
Strong regional mechanisms play a key role in reinforcing the international human rights system. However, my concern is less for the bodies themselves than for the people whose human rights will be affected. I fear that a vital layer of human rights protection for Venezuelans—and potentially for other Latin Americans as well—will be stripped away if this decision is carried out, and they will be left far more vulnerable to abuses with fewer remedies available. I therefore urge Venezuela to reconsider its decision to withdraw from the American Convention on Human Rights.On Monday the Organization of American States [official website] released a statement [press release] from Venezuela that denounced the Convention and formally withdrew its support.
The Venezuelan government and the IACHR have clashed in the past. In 2011 Chavez criticized the IACHR [JURIST report] for ruling in favor of presidential hopeful Leopoldo Lopez, allowing him to run for office despite a separate court ruling barring him from the election. Chavez said the ruling was politically motivated and that the court was influenced by the US. In June 2010 the IACHR sent a letter to the Venezuelan government expressing concern [JURIST report] over the increasing threat to freedom of expression in the country, citing three recent cases that caused particular concern. In February 2010 the IACHR released a report [JURIST report] providing a detailed analysis on the state of human rights in Venezuela, which ultimately concluded that not all citizens are ensured full enjoyment of their basic human rights. The top Venezuelan human rights official criticized the report [JURIST report] and said that the report makes unfair characterizations and undermines Venezuelan democracy.