Human Rights and Religious Groups Condemn Pat Robertson’s Attack on Venezuela

The human rights group Global Exchange and the National Council of Churches issued statements in which they condemned Pat Robertson's call for Chavez's assassination. Global Exchange urged Republicans to disassociate themselves from the comments and urged that Robertson be investigated for possible violations of the law.

Caracas, Venezuela, August 23, 2005 —The U.S.-based Human Rights group Global Exchange and the National Council of Churches issued separate statements in which they condemned fundamentalist televangelist Pat Robertson’s call for the assassination of Venezuela’s President Hugo Chavez.

Global Exchange said it strongly condemns the actions of Bush supporter Pat Robertson in his call for the assassination of democratically-elected President Hugo Chávez of Venezuela. The group calls on Pat Robertson to immediately retract his outrageous statement.

Global Exchange also calls on President Bush, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist, Speaker of the House Dennis Hastert, and House Majority Leader Tom DeLay to condemn in the strongest terms possible the statements of a leader of their political base. Pat Robertson, a candidate for the Republican Party’s Presidential nomination in 1992, along with the millions of supporters of his 700 Club, are a key constituency of the Republican Party.

State Department spokesperson Sean McCormack today referred to Robertson’s statement as “inappropriate.” “Calling for terrorist homicide against a democratically-elected president is not ‘inappropriate;’ it is illegal, immoral, must be condemned in the strongest language possible, and must be investigated for potential violations of federal and international law,” said Deborah James, Global Economy Director of Global Exchange.

“The US government’s dislike for Chávez’s vision of a national economy that delivers development rather than free trade does not give the US government – or US government supporters – a license to kill,” said Deborah James.

According to Global Exchange, Pat Robertson should be investigated and potentially prosecuted for calling for the murder of a democratically-elected head of state. Under Title 18 of US Code Section 1116, “whoever kills or attempts to kill a foreign official, official guest, or internationally protected person shall be punished.” Section 878 of the same title makes it a crime to “knowingly and willingly threaten” to commit the above crime.

Global Exchange highlighted that the US government has obligations under international law to prevent and punish acts of terrorism against foreign heads of state if those acts are conceived of or planned on US territory. The 1973 United Nations Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of Crimes Against Internationally Protected Persons makes it a crime to commit a “murder, kidnapping, or other attack upon on the liberty of an internationally protected person; .. [including] a “threat to commit any such attack.” An internationally protected person means a head of state (or other specified persons.)

Global Exchange says it also calls for the investigation of Pat Robertson’s Christian Broadcasting Network, for the potential illegality of using federally licensed airwaves to call for the assassination of a democratically-elected head of state. The groups says that in light of the $550,000 fine against CBS for the accidental airing of a “wardrobe malfunction,” it would be ironic in the extreme if the CBN were not to be similarly punished for airing a call for terrorist homicide.

The National Council of Churches also issued a statement, in which its General Secretary, Bob Edgar, said, “Pat Robertson’s call for the assassination of Venezuela President Hugo Chavez is appalling to the point of disbelief.”

Edgar went on to say, “It defies logic that a clergyman could so casually dismiss thousands of years of Judaeo-Christian law, including the commandment that we are not to kill. It defies logic that this self-proclaimed Christian leader could so blithely abandon the teachings of Jesus to love our enemies and turn our cheeks against violence. It defies logic that a former candidate for the presidency could skirt the brink of international law to call for the assassination of a foreign leader on the grounds that he might some day be a danger to us. It defies logic that this so-called evangelist is using his media power not to win people to faith but to encourage them to support the murder of a foreign leader.”

According to Edgar, “I have no doubt that … the 45-million people represented by the member communions of the National Council of Churches resolutely condemn” the call for Chavez’s assassination.