Chavez Announces “Immediate” Withdrawal from Inter-American Court of Human Rights

Chavez Announces “Immediate” Withdrawal from Inter-American Court of Human Rights – Following an announcement earlier in April that his government would be withdrawing from the Inter-American Commission of Human Rights (IAHRC), Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez confirmed on Tuesday that his administration would also no longer recognise the IAHRC’s sister organisation, the Inter-American Court of Human Rights (IACrtHR) with “immediate” effect.

Both organisations are affiliate bodies of the Organization of the American States (OAS), with the commission recommending and submitting human rights cases to the court for review.

In a televised address to the public on Tuesday evening, the Venezuelan head of state confirmed the country’s exit from the human rights tribunal after accusing the body of “political manipulation” and attacking the South American nation for “daring to liberate” itself from Washington’s influence.

Chavez’s comments follow a ruling from the IACrtHR which charged the Venezuelan government with violating the rights of Raul Diaz Pena; an anti-government terrorist who planted bombs near to the Spanish and Colombian embassies in Caracas in 2003.

Despite receiving a 9 year sentence in 2008, Pena fled to the US on conditional release in 2010, where he claimed to be a “political prisoner”. Last week the IACrtHR ruled that Pena’s prison conditions in Venezuela had been “inhumane”.

“This Inter-American Court of Human Rights is shameful; it just pronounced itself in favour of a terrorist and against the Venezuelan State. That’s why I said to [Venezuelan foreign minister Nicolas Maduro]; ‘Nicholas, let’s not wait any more,’ Venezuela is leaving the Inter-American Court of Human Rights as a matter of dignity,” said Chavez.

The Venezuelan government has had an increasingly difficult relationship with both the IACrtHR and the IACHR since 2002, when they refused to condemn a 47 hour coup against Chavez which saw around 100 people killed at the hands of the newly installed regime.

In November last year, the human rights court also tried to override a decision by Venezuela’s Supreme Court (TSJ) prohibiting opposition politician Leopoldo Lopez from holding office due to corruption charges. At the time, Chavez said the ruling meant “nothing to the left” in Venezuela.

Foreign interests

The human rights bodies’ failure to take a stance on issues such as the US embargo against Cuba, or to denounce other coups in the region, including a 2009 coup in Honduras and a recent “express coup” in Paraguay, have led many of the region’s left-leaning governments to cite the IACrtHR and IACHR as being representative of the US government’s interests on the Latin American continent.

Venezuela’s delegate to the OAS, Roy Chaderton, has frequently accused the Inter-American organisations of acting as a mouthpiece for Washington in the region, and of backing anti-government actors’ attempts to “destabilise” the Chavez administration.

The Venezuelan government’s withdrawal from the Inter-American human rights organisation has sparked criticism in the international press, as well as renewed debate over whether US dominated institutions such as the OAS are still relevant to Latin America’s changing political dynamic; with new organisations such as the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States (CELAC) having been set up without US or Canadian representation.

“There are two paths (for the OAS), either it dies at the service of imperialism, or it is reborn to serve the people of America,” said Bolivian President, Evo Morales, earlier in June, adding that, “(The OAS) is just about seeing human rights problems in some countries where the president, the government, does not share the same politics as the United States”.

Venezuela has also called for organisations such as the CELAC and UNASUR (Union of South American Nations) to set up their own regional human rights institutions which reflect the “Latin American experience”.

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