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IACHR Deeply Concerned over Result of Venezuela's Denunciation of the American Convention
The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) deeply regrets the entry into force of Venezuela's denunciation of the American Convention on Human Rights. On September 10, 2012, the Secretary General of the Organization of American States (OAS) received the formal notice of denunciation, dated September 6, 2012, from the Ministry of the People's Power for Foreign Affairs, on behalf of the government of Venezuela. Based on the provisions of Article 78(1) of the American Convention, the denunciation takes effect on September 10, 2013, one year after notice was given.
The Commission reiterates its deep concern over the consequences of the denunciation's entry into force, namely that any human rights violations that take place in Venezuela after September 10, 2013, may not be analyzed by the Inter-American Court of Human Rights. This comes at the expense of the protection of rights of the people of Venezuela, who are stripped of a mechanism to protect their human rights. The Inter-American Commission calls on Venezuela to reconsider this decision.
Commission Continues to Have Jurisdiction in Venezuela after September 10, 2013
Venezuela's denunciation of the American Convention does not affect the jurisdiction of the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights to consider matters related to Venezuela.
As a Member State of the OAS, Venezuela will continue to be subject to the jurisdiction of the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights and bound by the obligations established in the OAS Charter and the American Declaration of the Rights and Duties of Man, signed by the State of Venezuela in 1948.
Article 53 of the OAS Charter establishes that the Organization of American States accomplishes its purposes by means of various bodies, including the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights. To this effect, as long as Venezuela continues to be a State Party to the OAS, the Inter-American Commission will continue to fulfill its mandate to promote and oversee the human rights situation in Venezuela and to handle petitions, cases, and precautionary measures.
In that regard, case law and practice in the inter-American human rights system has recognized that the American Declaration is a source of legal obligations for the OAS Member States, including in particular those that are not part of the American Convention.
Court Will Continue to Have Jurisdiction in Cases involving Human Rights Violations in Venezuela before September 10, 2013
Human rights violations that took place in Venezuela during the time in which the country was a State Party to the American Convention are subject to the Court's jurisdiction, in accordance with the obligations established in the treaty. Venezuela ratified the American Convention on June 23, 1977, and its denunciation will enter into force on September 10, 2013. Therefore, any petitions the Inter-American Commission may receive after September 10, 2013, that allege human rights violations that took place before that date will be processed based on the State's obligations under the American Convention and subject to consideration by the Inter-American Court.
Article 78(2) of the American Convention on Human Rights establishes that a denunciation of this treaty "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."
Serious Setback in the Universalization of the Inter-American System
Venezuela's denunciation of the Convention comes after the OAS Member States have repeatedly stated their intention to advance the universalization of the inter-American human rights system, which is to say that States that have not already done so should ratify the American Convention and other inter-American human rights instruments.
The Commission has agreed with the Member States that the universalization of the inter-American system is a priority objective so as to advance the protection of human rights in the region. Venezuela's denunciation of the Convention presents a serious step backwards in reaching this goal.
As part of the process of strengthening the inter-American human rights system, the Member States emphasized the urgent need to ensure that countries that have not yet done so ratify the American Convention and other inter-American instruments, and that all member countries recognize the jurisdiction of the Inter-American Court.
Calls to Withdraw the Denunciation
The IACHR notes that several statements have been issued calling on Venezuela to revoke its decision to denounce the Convention. The UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Navi Pillay, strongly urged Venezuela to reconsider its decision, warning that its withdrawal could mean a serious setback for human rights protection in Venezuela and the region as a whole. The High Commissioner noted that the decision runs directly counter to the resolutions adopted by the UN Human Rights Council--to which Venezuela became a party in 2012--aiming at enhancing cooperation and dialogue between international and regional human rights mechanism, so as to strengthen protections for the people whose rights would be affected. For their part, both the OAS Secretary General and the IACHR, through Press Release No. 117/12, urged the State of Venezuela to reconsider its decision.
The Commission also notes that during its recent consideration meeting on Venezuela, held in August 2013, the United Nations Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination (CERD) expressed its concern in this regard. It urged the State to reconsider its decision and to consider remaining an integral part of the inter-American human rights system. CERD said that while it is important for States to be able to demand that their sovereignty be respected, that cannot imply that they decide to withdraw from international systems for the protection of human rights, when they can contribute to reform and improvement from within and ensure broader protections for the people under its jurisdiction.
The IACHR regrets that, despite repeated calls by the Commission and by other international bodies for Venezuela to reconsider its decision to denounce the Convention, the State of Venezuela has not reversed that decision.
Precedents regarding the American Convention on Human Rights
The American Convention entered into force in 1978. To date, 24 of the 35 OAS Member States have ratified it. The treaty was denounced by the State of Trinidad and Tobago, effective May 26, 1999, after important judgments of the Inter-American Court regarding the application of the death penalty in that country. The Inter-American Court continued to hear cases involving that country, under the provisions established in Article 78 and Article 62(1) of the Convention with respect to human rights violations that took place in the country when it was a State Party to the treaty.
Also, on July 9, 1999, during the government of Alberto Fujimori, Perú tried to withdraw its recognition of the jurisdiction of the Inter-American Court of Human Rights. On September 24, 1999, the IACourtHR issued a sentence on competence where it decided that, "Peru's purported withdrawal of the declaration recognizing the contentious jurisdiction of the Inter-American Court of Human Rights is inadmissible." The basis of this decision was that the American Convention on Human Rights establishes the possibility of denouncing it, but it does not consider the possibility of a withdrawal of the recognition of the competence of the Court.
The Commission calls on the government of Venezuela to reconsider its decision so that victims of possible human rights violations that may take place after September 10 have access to the Inter-American Court. The Commission also calls on the government of Venezuela to cooperate with the Inter-American Commission and Court in the consideration of petitions and cases and in the implementation of protective measures that are granted, and so that the decisions of both bodies are respected.
[Source: IACHR, Washington, 10Sep13]
DDHH en Venezuela
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