Speeches and other documents by the Secretary General


October 6, 2017 - Venice

The systemic violations of human and fundamental rights and the rule of law in Venezuela are leading to the total destruction of the institutional system in the country, while democracy was eliminated de facto on July 30 of this year. Every day there are more voices in the international community that call for the return of democracy to Venezuela. This will only happen when the people can express themselves through free, universal, clean general elections with qualified international observation.

• Mr. Gianni Buquicchio, President of the European Commission for Democracy through Law, Members of the Venice Commission, It is a great honor for me to address you.

• I would like to start by echoing what President Buquicchio said during his address to the OAS Permanent Council last march: “The Council of Europe and the OAS can be regarded in many aspects as sister organizations”.

• Therefore, it is only natural that sister organizations who share the same values and interest in the protection of human rights, the promotion of democracy and the rule of law, work together across regional boundaries.

• Based on the cooperation established in 1987 between the two organizations by an exchange of letters and the most recent 2011 Memorandum of Understanding, I decided to request an opinion on the legality of the Presidential decree through which elections for a Constituent Assembly in Venezuela were convened.

I am pleased that the Commission has endorsed the Preliminary Opinion issued on July 21 in reference to the Constituent Assembly in Venezuela

• If you allow me, I would like to share a brief summary of the ongoing situation in Venezuela and the OAS efforts in denouncing the criminal acts of the regime against democracy, human rights and the rule of law.

OAS Reports on the Situation in Venezuela

• I have prepared four reports on the situation in Venezuela, which were published on May 30 of 2016, on March 14 of 2017, on July 19th and most recently on September 25th.

• Between the publication of the first and second reports - only 10 months - the crisis escalated dramtically.

While the first report argues that there had been an "alteration of the constitutional order", the second states that the country had already reached a "complete rupture of the democratic order".

• After the ruling of the Constitutional Chamber that took over the functions of the National Assembly at the end of March, and the beginning of citizen protests, the abuses and the attacks against Venezuelan democracy intensified. The Government of Venezuela responded to the protests with a systematic and deliberate strategy of repression against civilians.

• The third report stresses, therefore, the systematic use of violence and terror that could constitute crimes against humanity according to international law.

• And the most recent report, presented just last week, shows that democracy in Venezuela was completely eliminated on July 30, following the establishment of an illegitimate Constituent Assembly.

Violation of the Inter-American Democratic Charter (IDC)

• The Venezuelan Government, a country that ratified the Inter American Charter (IDC) , has violated essential elements of democracy, such as: respect for human rights and fundamental rights; Rule of law; the separation and independence of powers; and transparency and accountability in the public sector.

• Furthermore, the Venezuelan Government has denied the Venezuelan people the right to life, physical integrity, and freedom of assembly and association, even though these rights are established in the Constitution and international law.

• The evidence that shows the violation of human and fundamental rights includes: systematic repression, torture, arbitrary detention, the existence of political prisoners, military trials of civilians, censorship, intimidation and harassment of the opposition, famine, shortages of basic products and medicines, and unbridled crime.

• Below are some of the most alarming figures that give evidence of the above:

• The Venezuelan Observatory for Social Conflict (OVCS) estimates a total of 7,468 demonstrations from 1 April to September 22, 2017.

• According to the Public Ministry of Venezuela, as of July 31, the total deaths in demonstrations amounted to 121 people. Of the total deaths, according to the official source, 25% were due to actions taken by state security forces, with another 40% verified as attributable to the participation of armed civilians who act in coordination with security forces.

• The injured and those detained arbitrarily by state security forces in the context of the protests number in the thousands.

• The number of political prisoners stands at 487 people, according to Foro Penal.

• The Government has restricted access to basic rights such as health, food and security. The serious humanitarian and economic crisis noted in my first report in March 2016 continues and worsens every day.

• The economy has collapsed because of deliberate actions and government negligence. While people suffer - because of the lack of medicines, high malnutrition and famine, high crime rates and violence - the government denies it and proclaims an alternative reality.

• The regime has abolished the rule of law - another fundamental element of democracy. In the Rule of Law Index report for the year 2016, Venezuela took the last position, with a rating lower than Afghanistan and Zimbabwe.

• The Government has systematically violated the Bolivarian Constitution itself. The Constitutional Chamber of the Supreme Court of Justice (TSJ) ruled in favor of the Executive in the five presidential decrees of states of emergency and the four extensions registered to date. This, despite the fact that the National Assembly rejected the decrees and that they exceeded the deadlines established by the Constitution.

The election of the National Constituent Assembly

• On July 30 a process was held to vote for a fraudulent National Constituent Assembly. The election of the Constituent Assembly was carried out by ignoring the basic principles of transparency, neutrality and universality that should characterize free and fair elections.

• It was a day of violence and death, where state forces massacred the Venezuelan people protesting against authoritarian rule. Sixteen people, including minors, were murdered in the numerous protests that took place during the vote.
• While the regime announced one of the highest voter turnouts in history, media and citizens reported that the majority of polling stations were almost empty. The processes of technical verification of the voters list, the electronic machinery, and the system of verification of results did not take place. The company in charge of the computer platform for voting in Venezuelan elections since 2004, Smartmatic, said the data on participation had been manipulated.

• In an election that lacks the minimum elements of certainty, in which there are discrepancies in the participation rate and in which manipulation has been denounced by the company responsible for consolidating the results, it is not possible to determine the validity of the disseminated data. In any other country in the hemisphere, the number of irregularities that have been seen in this process would be enough to decree the nullity of the election.

• Based on what is established in the Inter American Democratic Charter, the OAS reports document that the regime repeatedly stabbed the essential elements and components of a democracy by:

o Denying the human rights of the Venezuelan people;
o Eliminating the rule of law;
o Abolishing the principle of separation and independence of powers;
o Encouraging and protecting the existence of a corrupt government.

• However, the fatal blow to democracy came on July 30, 2017, with the completion of an electoral farce. By holding this fraudulent process, the regime ended up eliminating the last remaining element of democracy in Venezuela: the holding of periodic, free, fair elections based on universal and secret voting. Sufficient conditions for a competitive choice were still in place in 2015. Now, with what happened on July 30, the regime has robbed the Venezuelan people of the possibility of resorting to elections to express themselves.

Process to Analyze Whether the Situation in Venezuela merits referral to the International Criminal Court

• As stated before, in my report dated July 19, I considered that there is evidence that “points to the systematic, tactical and strategic use of murder, imprisonment, torture, rape and other forms of sexual violence, as tools to terrorize the Venezuelan people…” which could eventually be characterized as crimes against humanity and should be brought to the attention of the International Criminal Court.

• To lead an effective review process of the situation of violence and repression in Venezuela, I appointed a Special Advisor on Crimes against Humanity, Dr. Luis Moreno Ocampo, who served as the first Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court (2003-2012).

• Dr. Moreno Ocampo will facilitate through an impartial and independent process, the collection of evidence that provides a reasonable basis to determine whether crimes against humanity have been committed in Venezuela, the identification of their possible perpetrators, the existence of national investigation procedures, and other elements required under the Rome Statute.

• The results of the process will be submitted to OAS Permanent Council and the Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court.

• Venezuelans should not bear the cost of the annihilation of the Rule of Law. There is no greater injustice than to be subjected to humiliation at the hands of repressive forces.

• There is only one democratic solution for Venezuela – the one the people demand: an end to violent repression, the release of all political prisoners, a channel for humanitarian assistance, and above all - immediate full, free and fair elections.

• Thank you.