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Venezuela denies visit to Inter-American Court on Human Rights

By Aleksander Boyd

London 06.04.07 | And how does Hugo Chavez's 'commitment' to international treaties remains upon reading the following?

144. One area to which the Commission devoted part of its work in 2006 was the attempt to arrange a visit to Venezuela, an effort that was severely frustrated by the lack of response from the State to propose an exact date for the visit.

145. Since its last on-site visit to Venezuela in May 2002, the Commission has fruitlessly sought the consent of the State, both verbally and in writing, to visit the country again. The President of the Republic, Hugo Chávez Frías had expressed his government's complete willingness for the Commission to make all the visits necessary to follow up on the issues observed in 2002. However, in 2006, the Commission did not observe additional attempts and initiatives to carry out such visits nor any advances in the possibility of a visit to the country by Commissioner Paulo Sergio Pinheiro, Rapporteur for Venezuela.

146. The lack of consent from the government prevents the IACHR from exercising the powers and attributes granted to it by the States under the Charter of the OAS, the IACHR Statutes, and the American Convention on Human Rights.

147. It has been 20 years since the IACHR began its practice of on-site visits to the different countries of the hemisphere to verify the situation of human rights in them. The possibility of firsthand knowledge on the ground of different issues and programs connected with human rights in the countries has helped to strengthen a close dialogue with government authorities and society as a whole, with a common objective: to promote observance and protection of human rights and improve quality of life for the inhabitants of the countries in the region.

148. The inter-American system allows progressively broad protection of human rights and democracy by strengthening with a regional perspective domestic institutions and rules and ensuring access to increasing protection for the values of human dignity. One of the major contributions of international human rights law is that prior to its creation each state had exclusive jurisdiction over the way in which it treated its inhabitants. At present, the responsibility of the State for protecting human rights is a legitimate concern of the international community.

149. A feature of democracy is its ability to be refined and, on that premise, erecting a hemispheric position on the issues of due process, emergency situations, equality before the law, and prohibition of discrimination, creates increasing avenues at the domestic level to foment the growth of democracy. With the vision of contributing to the construction of democratic societies based on full observance of human rights, the States created, among other instruments, the inter-American system for protection of human rights, consisting of a set of provisions and two specialized organs: the Inter-American Commission and the Inter-American Court of Human Rights. The States, the creators of the system, voluntarily undertook to fulfil their commitments and to act as guarantors of the system both individually and collectively.

150. The system has different instruments at its disposal in order to perform its role. One of the main instruments available to the IACHR to carry out the mandate issued by the States to stimulate the consciousness of human rights[171], are the on-site visits, through which it can evaluate human rights conditions in a country, verify the situation of certain rights, or promote the value of human rights overall. Upon concluding an on-site visit, the Commission usually offers preliminary observations which it makes public. On-site visits normally conclude with a comprehensive and detailed report on the situation of human rights in the country. In past reports the Commission has warned of situations of decline in the rule of law in various countries. In addition, the reports have been essential for the restoration of democracy in certain countries in the region or to advance democratic consolidation. Implementation of the recommendations contained in these reports has made it possible to improve the quality of democratic life in a number of different states in the region. These reports and the recommendations they contain then become the subject of continuous monitoring and periodic follow-up reports, which are enriched by fruitful dialogue established with the state and civil society and the possibility of continued follow-up visits.

151. Recognizing the importance of the visits and reports of the IACHR as guiding instruments for the enhancement and protection of human rights in the countries of the region, at the fourth plenary session of the General Assembly held on June 6, 2006, in Santo Domingo, the heads of state and government reaffirmed the essential value of the work carried out by the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) to enhance the protection and promotion of human rights and the reinforcement of the rule of law in the Hemisphere, as well as encouraging the member states to continue the practice of inviting the IACHR to visit their respective countries.[172]

152. Based on the foregoing, the IACHR considers that the impossibility for the IACHR to visit a member state due to lack of consent or political will on the part of the government runs contrary to the very spirit that led the States to create the agencies of the system for protection of human rights and, therefore, obstructs fulfillment of the specific mandates adopted by the States in Charter of the Organization, the American Convention on Human Rights, the Statutes of the IACHR, and, more recently, the Inter-American Democratic Charter.

153. With regard to the country visit, in its report of observations, the State reiterates “in the most emphatic manner, the need of the Commission, instead of remaining silent as it has until now and criticize the alleged silence on behalf of the Venezuelan State, to carry out a critical and public review of the complacent attitude that it maintained regarding those who organized and executed the coup d'etat that took place in the month of April of 2002 in Venezuela. […] For these reasons, based upon the norms of the system, both substantive and procedural, of the principles that serve to secure the credibility, effectiveness and efficiency of the system and the conduct that the Commission has maintained, it is surprising that this body pretends that the Venezuelan State maintain a moderate relationship without evidence of the will, materialized by concrete actions on the part of the Commission, to ensure its correct performance”. Subsequently, the State argued that “it never committed itself to arranging a visit to Venezuela for the reasons previously indicated. In any case, the State considered the possibility of a working visit, conditional upon the autocratic recognition of the Commission’s actions during the coup d'etat in April of 2002, which would be fundamental for the development of the visit and for working together with an agenda of subjects of interest to the State.”[173]

154. With the purpose of advancing in the dialogue, the Commission wishes to recall that during the serious events that occurred on April 11, 2002, the Commission condemned the coup d'etat against the constitutional order by emitting a press release, in which it expressed, among other things, its most emphatic condemnation of the violent acts, deplored the dismissal of the highest officers from all branches of government, and noted that the events constituted an interruption of the constitutional order.[174] In this opportunity the Commission reiterated one more time its emphatic condemnation of the coup d’etat occurred in Venezuela on April 11, 2002.

155. From the antecedents and the arguments furthered, the IACHR considers that the impossibility, for lack of consent or political will on behalf of a State, of the IACHR to visit a Member State, contradicts the spirit itself that lead the States to create the organs of the system for the protection of human rights as they defined in the Charter of the Organization of American States, the American Convention on Human Rights, and the Commission’s Statute.

156. According to the intentions of the member states, the Commission and the Court are mechanisms to contribute to the development of "a system of personal liberty and social justice", which is the ultimate objective mentioned in the preamble of the American Convention. The Commission plays a crucial role of support and assistance to the states for reinforcing observance of human rights in their jurisdictions. In keeping with these principles, the Commission renews its commitment to work with the Venezuelan State and society and, in particular, reiterates its interest in visiting the country in the near future in order to contribute to the development and enhancement of human rights in Venezuela and to strengthen dialogue with the State.

More from the original Inter-American Court on Human Rights report.

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