The Venezuelan government’s decision to denounce the American Convention on Human Rights and therefore pull out of the Inter-American Court constitutes an affront to the victims of human rights violations, Amnesty International said.
On Tuesday, Secretary General of the Organization of American States (OAS) José Miguel Insulza confirmed having received the Venezuelan government’s request to withdraw from the Convention and the Inter-American Court of Human Rights – which the OAS oversees – within a year.
The move means victims of human rights violations in Venezuela will be barred from bringing complaints before the regional court.
“This move is an affront to the victims of human rights violations and to future generations of Venezuelans who will no longer be able to access this regional body when their rights are not respected in their own country,” said Guadalupe Marengo, Deputy Americas Programme Director at Amnesty International.
“Having access to an international body like the Inter-American Court is a right that all Venezuelans had up until now, but the government has decided to cut off that important lifeline.”
Leaving the Court
Promoting and protecting the human rights of all without discrimination is the cornerstone of the rule of law and allows states to ensure that all people can live with dignity, regardless of their gender, race, ethnic origin or any other condition.
Regional and national human rights systems were created to guarantee everyone a route to pursue justice and reparation for human rights abuses when national justice systems have failed them.
The regional human rights system – made up of the Inter-American Commission and Court of Human Rights – is a necessary complement to national protection measures throughout the Americas. Over the years, thousands of victims and their relatives across the continent have seen it as their only chance to obtain justice after national justice systems have failed them.
Venezuela’s Constitution currently guarantees all people the right to access to international bodies, but once the current government’s decision takes effect within a year, this route to justice will be blocked. They will no longer have access to the Inter-American Court – the highest human rights body in the Americas.
Amnesty International joins the OAS Secretary General and the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) in calling on Venezuela’s government to reconsider its decision.
“The Venezuelan government must immediately review its decision to withdraw from the American Convention on Human Rights and show that it is truly committed to human rights,” said Marengo.
The organization notes that since Venezuela will remain a member of the OAS, it will still be subject to monitoring by the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights.
In December 2008 Venezuela’s Constitutional Court declared that a judgement of the Inter-American Court of Human Rights could not be implemented and requested that the executive withdraw from the American Convention on Human Rights.
Since then, there have been several announcements by authorities on withdrawing from the jurisdiction of the Inter-American Court. Amnesty International has repeatedly called upon Venezuela to honour its international and regional human rights obligations, and to remain as a signatory of the American Convention of Human Rights.
Under the provisions of the American Convention on Human Rights, state parties can opt to withdraw from the regional Court by denouncing the Convention, but such decisions take one year to take effect. Two other OAS members – Trinidad and Tobago and Peru – have made such a move, but Peru subsequently reconsidered and today is subject to the Inter-American Court’s jurisdiction.