BOGOTA (Thomson Reuters Foundation) – Venezuela should reconsider its decision to withdraw from the American Convention on Human Rights, since this will make it much harder for its citizens to seek justice for rights violations committed in their country, Amnesty International said.
The convention is part of the rights framework for the 35 members of the Washington-based Organisation of American States (OAS), which defines the human rights member states have agreed to protect.
The convention, which came into force in 1978, also created the Inter-American Court of Human Rights, a regional court aimed at safeguarding human rights to which people can turn if they are unable to get justice and compensation for human rights violations within their own countries.
“This decision is an insult to the victims of human rights violations and places future generations of Venezuelans at risk,” said Guadalupe Marengo, deputy director of the Americas programme at Amnesty International.
“What’s more, it goes against Venezuela’s constitution, which guarantees access to international bodies to seek protection of their human rights,” she added in a statement.
Rights groups say the convention provides crucial protection for citizens in countries with weak judiciaries or a history of authoritarian leaders.
“Over the years, through the Inter-American Commission and Court, the inter-American human rights system has represented the only possible way of obtaining justice and reparation for thousands of victims and their families across the continent. To deprive Venezuelans of the option of turning to the Court is scandalous,” Marengo said.
Amnesty said the Inter-American Commission will still be able to monitor Venezuela's compliance with its human rights obligations. But the South American nation’s decision to leave the regional convention on human rights, which will take effect on September 12, will limit Venezuelans' access to the jurisdiction of the Inter-American Court of Human Rights.
In the past, Venezuela has accused the regional human rights court of being a pawn of Washington, of improperly weighing in on disputes still being heard in domestic courts and of meddling in its domestic affairs.
The Costa Rica-based tribunal has heard a series of cases accusing Venezuela's previous government of Hugo Chavez of authoritarianism and rights abuses.