Merida, 11th September 2013 (Venezuelanalysis.com) – Venezuelan foreign minister Elias Jaua has defended the government's decision to withdraw from the human rights bodies of the Organisation of American States (OAS), arguing that “ordinary citizens” have been neglected by the international institutions.
On Tuesday, Venezuela’s withdrawal from the American Human Rights Convention (ACHR) became official, meaning the country will no longer recognise the jurisdiction of the OAS affiliated Inter-American Court of Human Rights (IACrtHR) and Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR). Confirmation came a year to the day since the OAS secretary general received a formal letter of complaint from the Venezuelan foreign ministry criticising the conduct of the two regional human rights bodies.
“After a year there has not been a single correction [to address the Venezuelan government's criticisms of the IACrtHR and IACHR] despite the efforts of our sister countries, the governments in Ecuador and Bolivia, which have taken on the task of transforming the inter-American system,” Jaua stated.
“We confirm that sovereign decision [to withdraw],” he affirmed.
On Tuesday, spokesperson for the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights Rupert Colville condemned the move.
“Regrettably, this withdrawal becomes effective today. We want to repeat our concern that this decision may have a very negative impact on human rights in the country and beyond,” Colville said, according to a UN statement.
Among other international human rights groups, Amnesty International has also hit out at the withdrawal, labelling it a “a serious setback for the rights of Venezuelans”.
However, according to Jaua, both the OAS bodies failed to condemn human rights abuses allegedly committed under consecutive Venezuelan governments prior to the election of former president Hugo Chavez; including the alleged 1990/1 killing of around 50 students by Caracas police.
He argued that previous governments had repeatedly violated the rights of Venezuelans with impunity.
“Unfortunately, the Venezuelan people never had protection under the international guardianship of human rights [bodies],” Jaua stated on Tuesday. Speaking to Venezuelan media, he argued that the two bodies have “overreached” during both the presidency of Chavez and current Maduro government. However, he also stated that the IACrtHR has failed to rule “in favour of any ordinary [Venezuelan] citizen”.
“The Commission and the Inter-American Court of Justice have never been guarantors of justice, but protectors of the powerful,” he tweeted on Tuesday.
He also criticised OAS handling of the 2002 coup that temporarily ousted Chavez from power, along with the case of Luis Posada Carriles, who is wanted in Venezuela under terrorism charges. Carriles currently lives in Miami, and calls for his extradition have been rejected by the United States. The US is a member state of the OAS, but has not ratified the ACHR. In 2002, neither the IACrtHR or IACHR condemned the two day coup that claimed around 100 lives.
Jaua also argued that the twin bodies failed to address a wave of violence in the wake of the 14 April elections earlier this year. The government has blamed then opposition presidential candidate Henrique Capriles for inciting violence.
“The greatest guarantee of the protection of human rights in Venezuela today is the Venezuelan state,” Jaua said.
“We will continue working for the Venezuelan people, the ordinary people, not the powerful corporate sectors, not the corrupt, not terrorists,” he said.
Also known as the Pact of San-Jose, the ACHR first came into force in 1978. The IACrtHR and IACHR are mandated with overseeing compliance with the convention. Venezuela first ratified the ACHR in 1977. Both Chavez and his successor, current president Nicolas Maduro, have criticised the organisations. Ecuador, Bolivia and Nicaragua have likewise been strong critics of the OAS and its affiliated human rights bodies in recent years.
Chavez first announced his intention to withdraw from the OAS affiliated bodies last year. “How long are we going to sit under Damocles’ sword... the IACrtHR is a tool that the United States uses against us,” Chavez told Venezuelan media in April 2012. Then in July, Chavez announced that his administration would immediately cease to recognise the IACrtHR and IACHR.
The announcement came after the IACrtHR issued a ruling that convicted terrorist Raul Diaz Pena was subjected to “inhumane” conditions while imprisoned in Venezuela. Pena had been sentenced to nine years imprisonment by a Venezuelan court, which found that in 2003 he had intended to bomb the Spanish and Colombian embassies in Caracas.
A day before the latest announcement formally confirming Venezuela's withdrawal, Capriles reportedly sent a request to the OAS to declare the April election void.
“The elections, which were fraudulent, must be repeated and the electoral process must be free and fair,” the opposition's Ramon Jose Medina told media after delivering Capriles' request to the OAS.
“The so-called human rights system, the inter-American court and the commission, are by-products of an instrument of persecution against progressive governments that began with President Chavez's arrival," Maduro stated during a press conference on Monday.
“It's reality... the commission responds to the interests of the State Department of the US,” he said.
Maduro described the withdrawal from the convention as “the best decision made by Chavez”.