United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay asked the Venezuelan government on Tuesday to reconsider its decision to withdraw from the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR). Venezuela’s pronouncement will challenge resolutions recently passed by the United Nations Human Rights Council to improve dialogue and cooperation among regional human rights organizations.
Hugo Chavez announced Venezuela’s withdrawal from the IACHR this April after describing the commission as a mechanism of U.S. influence against his country. On August 1, Venezuelan Foreign Minister Nicolás Maduro said that the country’s departure from the Commission will be in effect after one year’s notice.
An autonomous branch of the Organization of American States (OAS), the IACHR is the main observer and protector of human rights in the hemisphere. For IACHR Executive Secretary Santiago Canton, the body is “a crucial tool against injustice—exceeding the imagination of its founders and making it a force in the hemisphere and an example in the world.” However, the commission was criticized at the 42nd General Assembly of the OAS in Bolivia where the ALBA bloc—Venezuela, Ecuador, Bolivia, and Nicaragua—expressed their willingness to abandon the OAS and create their own regional system.
Pillay’s petition takes place less than a month before the elections in Venezuela, when over 18 million Venezuelans will decide between a fourth term for President Hugo Chávez—in power since 1999—and a new administration under opposition leader Henrique Capriles Radonski.
On September 18, the Americas Society and the Council of the Americas will host a panel where experts will analyze popular support for Venezuela’s presidential candidates and discuss the effect of the president’s health on the campaign, access to the media and freedom of expression, and the likely economic impact of the October 7 elections.