Press Release

IACHR Deeply Concerned about Further Weakening of Separation and Independence of Powers and Undermining of Democratic Institutions in Venezuela

August 31, 2017

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Washington, DC - The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) expresses its deep concern regarding the acts of the recently constituted National Constituent Assembly (ANC) in Venezuela that exceed the powers of a constituent body and usurp the powers of the National Assembly which affects the separation of powers and a representative democracy. It is also worrisome the ANC's discretionary power to dismiss and appoint any authority of the Venezuelan State, including magistrates and prosecutors, and to dictate and/or reform laws, and implement decisions without control of other powers and the necessary guarantees required within a democratic society.

The IACHR expresses concern over a series of decisions adopted by the ANC under those discretionary powers that do not meet basic guarantees of due process. They include the dismissal of the Attorney General of Venezuela, Luisa Ortega Díaz, on August 5, 2017, against whom preliminary proceedings had been instituted for alleged misconduct and criminal offenses. She had been investigating reports of fraud in the ANC election as well as complaints against members of the security forces for allegedly firing on demonstrators during protests. On August 4, 2017, the IACHR granted precautionary measures to Ms. Ortega Díaz and her immediate family, on the grounds that, based on information provided to it, they were in a serious and urgent situation that posed an imminent risk of irreparable harm to their rights to life and physical integrity.

In addition, on August 8, 2017, the ANC issued a decree to regulate the “powers, workings, and organization of the branches of government immediately, in order to ensure the proper functioning of institutions and preserve stability.” Under that decree, the ANC may “enact measures relating to the powers, workings, and organization of the branches government, which shall be immediately complied with; and limit or remove from office officials belonging to [those organs].” The vice president of the ANC stated that “all government agencies are required to obey the acts of law emanating from the Constituent Assembly.” The IACHR expresses its concern regarding the competencies assigned to the ANC that could allow it to act as a "parallel power", impinging on the role of the National Assembly and its representation of the people.

On the same date, the ANC created the Commission on Truth, Justice, Peace and Public Tranquility through a Constitutional Law, while it persist a context of conflict and political-social polarization. The creation of this body has been rejected by civil society organizations as it considers that "in essence, what is proposed is to establish and sharpen mechanisms for the persecution of dissent, which do not meet the real and concrete needs of the population".

The Commission recalls that the relationship between human rights, political rights, and democracy is enshrined in the Inter-American Democratic Charter, which provides: “Essential elements of representative democracy include, inter alia, respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms, access to and the exercise of power in accordance with the rule of law, the holding of periodic, free, and fair elections based on secret balloting and universal suffrage as an expression of the sovereignty of the people, the pluralistic system of political parties and organizations, and the separation of powers and independence of the branches of government.”

The IACHR once more urges the Venezuelan Government to fulfill its international human rights obligations and to restore mechanisms to ensure the independence of the different branches of government and the participation in political life of all sectors in the country.

A principal, autonomous body of the Organization of American States (OAS), the IACHR derives its mandate from the OAS Charter and the American Convention on Human Rights. The Inter-American Commission has a mandate to promote respect for and to defend human rights in the region and acts as a consultative body to the OAS in this area. The Commission is composed of seven independent members who are elected in an individual capacity by the OAS General Assembly and who do not represent their countries of origin or residence.

No. 131/17