By Caribbean News Now contributor
WASHINGTON, USA -- The government of Venezuela has informed the secretary general of the Organization of American States (OAS), José Miguel Insulza, through an official letter, that it is withdrawing from the American Convention on Human Rights.
According to the Convention, in its Article 78: “1. The States Parties may denounce this Convention (…) by means of notice given one year in advance. Notice of the denunciation shall be addressed to the Secretary General of the Organization, who shall inform the other States Parties. 2. Such a denunciation shall not have the effect of releasing the State Party concerned from the obligations contained in this Convention with respect to any act that may constitute a violation of those obligations and that has been taken by that state prior to the effective date of denunciation.”
Insulza said he regrets the decision taken by the government of Venezuela to denounce this legal instrument, one of the pillars of the legal regulations that protect the defence of human rights in the hemisphere.
The secretary general expressed his hope that in the year that must elapse before the decision becomes effective, as established by Art.78, the government of Venezuela may reconsider its decision.
Meanwhile, A United Nations senior official on Tuesday urged Venezuela to reconsider its decision to withdraw from the Convention, warning that doing so would represent a serious setback for human rights protection in the Latin American country and the region as a whole.
“I fear that a vital layer of human rights protection for Venezuelans – and potentially for other Latin Americans as well – will be stripped away if this decision is carried out, and they will be left far more vulnerable to abuses with fewer remedies available,” said the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay. “I therefore urge Venezuela to reconsider its decision to withdraw from the American Convention on Human Rights.”
The American Convention on Human Rights – also known as the Pact of San José – was adopted by many American countries in the Costa Rican capital of San José in 1969, and came into force in 1978.
It defines the human rights which the ratifying states have agreed to respect and ensure, and it created two organs to promote the observance and protection of human rights and take responsibility for overseeing compliance with the Convention: the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) and the Inter-American Court of Human Rights, which are both OAS organs.
“The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights and the Inter-American Court of Human Rights have not only had an extraordinarily positive impact on human rights in the region, but also served as pioneering examples which showed the rest of the world how vital and effective regional human rights bodies can be,” said Pillay. “Strong regional mechanisms play a key role in reinforcing the international human rights system.”
In a news release, Pillay noted that Venezuela’s move runs directly counter to resolutions recently adopted by the Geneva-based UN Human Rights Council, which aim to enhance cooperation and dialogue between international and regional human rights mechanisms.
However, Pillay stressed that her main concern were not the human rights bodies themselves but the people whose rights will be affected.
The high commissioner called on all countries in the Americas region to continue to cooperate with regional and international human rights mechanisms, and to refrain from taking any steps to weaken the regional human rights protection mechanisms.
“The Inter-American Court and Inter-American Commission have played an important role throughout the region’s democratic history, perhaps now more than ever, in protecting the rights of vulnerable groups, such as indigenous peoples, human rights defenders, journalists and others,” she added. “Governments and civil society must continue to be vigilant to ensure that the hard-won human rights gains in the Americas region are not squandered.”
To this date, excluding Venezuela, 24 nations in the Americas have ratified or have adopted the Convention: Argentina, Barbados, Bolivia, Brazil, Colombia, Costa Rica, Chile, Dominica, Ecuador, El Salvador, Granada, Guatemala, Haiti, Honduras, Jamaica, Mexico, Nicaragua, Panama, Paraguay, Peru, Dominican Republic, Suriname, Trinidad and Tobago and Uruguay.