IACHR

Press Release

IACHR Presents Report on the Human Rights Situation in Venezuela

February 12, 2018

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María Isabel Rivero
IACHR Press and Communication Office
Tel: +1 (202) 370-9000
mrivero@oas.org

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Washington, D.C.—The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) today is publishing the report “Democratic Institutions, the Rule of Law and Human Rights in Venezuela.” The Commission’s decision to produce this report stems from the marked deterioration in terms of the exercise of human rights in Venezuela, and the grave political, economic, and social crisis in the country. The report analyzes the institutional and human rights crisis of the last two years, with special emphasis on the events of 2017.

The report addresses the human rights situation in Venezuela by analyzing the impact that the weakening of the country’s democratic institutions has had on those rights. This report is organized around four main areas of focus, which correspond to the IACHR’s core concerns with respect to Venezuela: democratic institutions; social protest and freedom of expression; violence and citizen security; and economic, social, cultural, and environmental rights. It also includes a cross-cutting analysis of the specific harm done to individuals, groups, and communities that are at greater risk and are victims of of historical discrimination and exclusion. These include women, children and adolescents, older persons, human rights defenders, persons deprived of liberty, and migrants, refugees, or those in a similar situation, among others.

For the past several years, the Commission has observed a steady weakening of democratic institutions and the human rights situation in Venezuela; this has intensified alarmingly over the last two years, especially in 2017. The crisis that enveloped Venezuela that year stemmed from a combination of factors, notably the serious interferences by the executive and judicial branches in the legislative branch. Indeed, the worsening of the recent crisis in Venezuela is closely related to decisions by the Supreme Court that openly flouted the constitutional order. These decisions amount to interference with the National Assembly and violate the principle of separation of powers. In addition, high levels of corruption in Venezuela further weaken government institutions.

This situation has a profound impact on Venezuela’s people, who face serious obstacles to exercising their political rights and participating in the public affairs of the nation. The Commission is concerned to observe a pattern of reprisals against those who demonstrate or publicly espouse positions at variance with those of the government, as well as severe restrictions to the right to freedom of expression. It is necessary to guarantee, as a matter of priority, the full exercise of the political rights of every authority and inhabitant of Venezuela, irrespective of their political sympathies.

The IACHR report reveals severe restrictions to freedom of expression in Venezuela through censorship of media outlets, attacks on journalists, the criminalization of dissident opinions or of those who disseminate information contrary to government officials’ versions, and the punishment of whose who spread what are considered hate messages on the internet. The report also examines the excessive use of firearms and tear-gas bombs against demonstrators, as well as the participation of members of the armed forces in controlling demonstrations. The State must stop obstructing the exercise of the right to protest and curtail the use of force against demonstrators. The Commission expresses its strongest possible rejection of the harsh measures taken by the State in response to the recent social protests, which left hundreds of people dead; thousands arbitrarily detained; allegations of torture and cruel, inhuman, and degrading treatment and sexual violence perpetrated by State agents; and people unjustly tried on criminal charges in military courts. The IACHR appeals for these acts not to remain in impunity.

The report examines the increase in violence and crime in recent years. This impinges on the daily lives of the entire population, especially individuals and groups that have historically been victims of discrimination or are in a particularly vulnerable situation. It worries the IACHR that the State’s response has largely been to militarize citizen security and to co-opt civilians for security force tasks. The Inter-American Commission considers it essential to eliminate the participation of the armed forces in citizen security activities for which the police are responsible. The State of Venezuela must adopt a human rights perspective regarding citizen security, based on the premise that citizens are to be protected, not treated as enemies to combat.

Compounding the critical situation of democracy and political rights is a socioeconomic crisis characterized by widespread shortages of food, medicine, and medical treatment, materials, and supplies. The rights to education and housing have also been seriously impaired. The rates of poverty and extreme poverty in Venezuela are alarming, as are the serious impediments to the exercise of people’s economic, social, cultural, and environmental rights (ESCER), especially for groups that have traditionally faced exclusion and discrimination. To address this situation, the Commission urges the State to step up measures designed to reduce poverty and extreme poverty and to ensure the entire population’s access to those rights, without discrimination. The crisis has had a major impact on human mobility, forcing many individuals and families to migrate.

The crisis Venezuela is undergoing is fully documented in this report, which contains 76 recommendations to the State intended to put an end to the profound institutional and human rights crisis in the country. Of central concern to the IACHR are the Venezuelan people, who are suffering the grave consequences of this crisis at every level, with serious negative impacts on their civil, political, economic, social, cultural, and environmental rights. The purpose of the report is to defend and protect those who live under the Venezuelan State’s jurisdiction, and to work toward the recovery of all its democratic institutions and the respect and protection of human rights.

The way out of this crisis must be democratic, peaceful, and respectful of the human rights of all people. Venezuela cannot continue to indefinitely evade its international responsibilities in human rights. It is urgent for the State of Venezuela to accept the gravity of the situation, heed the recommendations made in this report, and accept offers of international aid, keeping the well-being of its people front and center.

The IACHR urges the Member States, as collective guarantors of the respect for human rights in the region, to cooperate in persuading the Venezuelan State of the importance of giving its consent for the IACHR to carry out an on-site visit to the country as soon as possible.

A principal, autonomous body of the 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 the respect for and defense of 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. 025/18