Venezuela’s withdrawal from the Inter-American Court of Human Rights goes into effect today—a year after the late Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez officially notified the Organization of American States (OAS) that his country would withdraw from the human rights body. Chávez accused the Court, an autonomous branch of the OAS, of serving U.S. interests.
Venezuela is the second country to denounce the American Convention on Human Rights and withdraw from the Inter-American Court, following Trinidad and Tobago’s pullout in 1998. Two other countries in the hemisphere—the U.S. and Canada—have not ratified the American Convention. Once the withdrawal becomes official, the Court will no longer be able to recognize and denounce human right violations in Venezuela, but the Commission will continue to evaluate and issue reports about the state of human rights in the country. This means that Venezuela will still form part of the inter-American human rights system since the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights can still monitor the country.
According to Venezuelan constitutional lawyer Arturo Peraza, denouncing the American Convention and withdrawing from the Court breaches the Venezuelan Constitution and the spirit of the 1999 Constituent Assembly. The American Convention, or Pact of San José, is mentioned in Article 339 on the Venezuelan Constitution, establishing that state of emergency decrees must meet the requirements set forth in the Convention. Article 23 also awards the Convention a constitutional status; Article 31 recognizes that citizens can file human rights claims and requests with international human rights bodies.
José Miguel Vivanco , Americas director for Human Rights Watch, called on members of the Common Market of the South (Mercosur) to persuade Venezuela to reconsider its decision, which Vivanco said could have severe implications on the Inter-American human rights system. Venezuela is a Mercosur member along with Argentina, Brazil, Paraguay, and Uruguay. However, Venezuelan Foreign Minister Elías Jaua replied last weekend that “the inter-American system is the one that has to reconsider.”
Venezuela, along with Ecuador and other members of the Alianza Bolivariana para los Pueblos de Nuestra América (Bolivarian Alliance for the Americas—ALBA) bloc, supports an ongoing process to reform the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights. This includes restricting its discretionary funding and the role of the Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Expression, which reports on freedom of expression violations throughout the Americas.