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Venezuela opts out of American Convention on Human Rights

Freedom House denounces the Venezuelan government's decision to withdraw from the American Convention on Human Rights, which took effect on September 10, 2013, one year after late President Hugo Chavez announced his intention to pull Venezuela from the convention. Freedom House urges the Venezuelan government to reconsider and calls on Latin American democracies to encourage Venezuela to reverse its decision.

Withdrawal from the convention removes Venezuela from the jurisdiction of the Costa Rica-based Inter-American Court of Human Rights (CorteIDH), leaving Venezuelans with limited recourse when they suffer abuses. The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) however, will retain its authority to monitor and report on human rights violations in the country, but will only be able to hear individual cases if there is a violation to the American Declaration of the Rights and Duties of Man, an older instrument, which Venezuela has ratified.

“Venezuela's decision to withdraw from the American Convention sends its citizens the message that their government has little regard for their rights and removes any doubt that this is a government uninterested in abiding by international norms,” said Viviana Giacaman, director for Latin America programs at Freedom House. “This decision also sets a dangerous precedent that any government can simply leave their international obligations with no political cost. Other states that are part of the American Convention should call on Venezuela to honor its commitments and reverse its decision to withdraw.”

Many international organizations, including the Organization of American States and the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights have called on the Venezuelan government to reverse the decision late President Chavez made on September 10, 2012, when he announced Venezuela's withdrawal from the Convention. The American Convention and the CorteIDH are cornerstone institutions of the human rights architecture of the region, which is one of the most robust in the world.

Ironically, just days after announcing its withdrawal from the American Convention last year, Venezuela gained membership to the United Nations Human Rights Council where it has proceeded to obstruct meaningful action on a variety of rights issues.

“Venezuela's willingness to participate at the U.N. shows that the country is able to weaken international human rights norms both by undermining them from within international bodies, and by withdrawing from mechanisms when it's convenient,” said Giacaman. “These two seemingly contradictory decisions are perfectly consistent with Venezuela's hostility to human rights.”

Venezuela is rated Partly Free in Freedom in the World 2013, Not Free in Freedom of the Press 2013, and Partly Free in Freedom on the Net 2012.

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